The Pretoria Pit Disaster occurred on 21 December 1910 when methane gas within the Pretoria Pit, Hulton Colliery, Westhoughton, Lancashire, North West England exploded. 344 men and boys were killed, making this the third worst mining disaster in UK history.
Mine explosions were common in the early days of coal mining. The technological advances of the twentieth century have improved working and safety conditions for coal miners, though mining remains a very dangerous occupation. Spark-free electric lamps, electronic hazardous gas monitors, and generator-powered ventilation systems now protect miners from methane gas and black lung, a disease caused by the daily inhalation of coal dust over time. The introduction of longwall mining has made mine shafts more structurally sound. The formation of worker’s unions in the twentieth century gave coal miners the power to insist upon these improved working conditions. The nationalization of the British coal mining industry in 1947 was intended to protect miners from exploitation by private corporate interests.