The lamp man assigned each worker one of the most important
devices to the miner. The lamp was not only used as a
lighting instrument, but could be used to indicate potential
dangers. The timekeeper gave him a brass tag inscribed with the
same numberto carry as in-the-mine identification. A matching
brass tag or check was put up on a nail above the miner's number
on the check board. This system allowed the timekeeper to know
who, exactly, was in the mine.
The lamps revealed the locations of the men who carried them.
Lamps were returned at the end of each shift. If a peg remained
uncovered (by a lamp) at the end of a shift, the fire boss would
knowat a glancethat a missing lamp meant a missing man.
After every shift, the lamp man cleaned each lamp. It was an
important job: a flame-type
safety lamp with a build-up of carbon could get hot, igniting
the surrounding methane gas.
The use of flame-type safety lamps was closely controlled.
Each lamp was locked to prevent its user from opening ita
situation that could prove to he deadly! Miners might be tempted
to try to relight the lamp with a match rather than walk in the
dark to a distant relighting station near the entry.
The electric safely lampin use by the 1920s-was also kept
locked. Why? Miners were tempted to speed up their coal
production by opening the lamps and using them to "fire
shots" (detonate explosives) in the coal face without waiting
for the fire boss.