• Dust, diesel, and disability in the British coal industry: a view from the coal face, 1985-1992

      Gildart, Keith (Social Sciences Academic Press China, 2019-12-31)
      In September 1992, I worked my last shift as an underground coal miner at Point of Ayr Colliery in the small North Wales coalfield. Yet I never really left the industry. As a researcher and academic my work has been underpinned by my own background as a coal miner and continued engagement with the collective memory of coal. The article reflects on this process using memory, autobiography, archival research and ethnography. Drawing on personal experiences of working in the coal industry between the years 1985-1992, it examines the shifting attitudes to health, safety and disability in one colliery, and how such responses were mediated by masculinity, humour, and the shifting industrial relations culture of the British coal industry. In 1989, the Labour Research Department published a pamphlet, The Hazards of Coal Mining, which became a crucial source for trade union officials in stressing the continued problems of miners’ health and safety. Yet the reception of the publication proved problematic in the context of colliery closures, new forms of coal extraction and payment, and an emphasis on increased production. This examination of miners’ attitudes to health and injury was complemented by ethnographic work in one Welsh mining community. The legacy of coal in this locality is still apparent with miners conveying both the physical and mental scars of exposure to dust, diesel and noise, yet working to create their own histories and representations of a mining past.