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1887 Bulli Colliery Explosion

Case Study

On 23 March 1887, Bulli Colliery experienced a gas explosion which blew out of the tunnel mouth, carrying with it an unconscious boy and killing 81 men and boys.

An inquiry found that management had become lax about safety and allowed the miners to remove the mesh from their lamps despite the dangerous gas build-up. Others believed that the miners, forced back to work at the end of the strike in February, were coerced into signing agreements that penalised workers for complaints about safety.

The immediate cause was found to be an exposed Davy lamp or “probably an overcharged shot” fired by one of the miners which ignited the gas. The resulting explosion blew out supports and caved in parts of the mine.

Rescue crews went into the mine to look for survivors. Unfortunately, other than the boy, there were no survivors. Some men were killed by the blast, some by rockfalls, while others were asphyxiated by the poisonous atmosphere.

The investigating commission was scathing in their findings. The blame was placed on the heads of mine management and the miners themselves, citing their laid-back approach to safety as the predominant cause of the explosion.

This incident claimed the lives of 81 people.