Safety and Health
The UK Quarrying Industry is still widely thought of as a dangerous industry with a relatively high number of fatal and major injuries compared with some other sectors. That is partly because, when figures are expressed as a "rate" taking into account the number of hours worked, they appear higher than many other potentially "dangerous" industries (such as construction) because of the relatively small number of people working in the quarrying sector. In addition to looking after the well-being of their work force, operators also have responsibility for the safety of visitors to, and even trespassers on, sites.
In recent years the industry has worked hard to try and improve its image and reduce accidents. Over the past 10 years the number of reportable accidents has fallen by 76% which has coincided with a target-based strategy initially known as the "Quarry Hard Target". Despite significant improvements, the fatal injuries rate is still over 20 times the "all industry average" and the all injuries rate is 1.5 times the "all industry average", so more needs to be done. Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 ("RIDDOR") L0553, employers are required to report deaths, major injuries, over-three-day injuries, injuries to the public and dangerous occurrences that could have led to death or injury. The HSE website (http://www.hse.gov.uk/quarries/index.htm) states that since 2000 over 3000 workers in the Quarry Industry have suffered a reportable injury, 24 of those being fatal.
There are also health issues relating to chemical and physical effects of emissions, exposure to potentially damaging vibrations, and the adequacy of general working conditions.
This webpage outlines safety and health issues in the quarry industry today, the legal framework, and recent high profile initiatives. It also refers to relevant ALSF funded projects.
Accidents in Quarrying
The HSE Quarry Industry Sector Strategy identifies the main causes of fatal and major accidents in quarries which are:
- Slips & trips – 28%
- Contact with moving/falling objects – 19%
- Falls from height – 20%
- Handling – 12%
- Moving machinery & drowning – 15%
While injuries arise in all of these categories, the two highest sources of fatalities are moving machinery and drowning. Most drowning incidents result from members of the public incautiously swimming in lagoons and other bodies of water.
The Quarry Regulations, 1999
Until 1999, the main legislation affecting quarries was the 1954 Mines & Quarries Act L0119 which was partly supplanted by new Quarry Regulations in 1999 L0292. These Regulations, supported by an Approved Code of Practice, differ from the 1954 Act in a number of important ways:
- They are goal setting and link with the requirements of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 L0122 emphasising the need to proactively focus on managing health & safety;
- They concentrate on the safe design of the quarry and its operations;
- They require competence of individuals at all levels;
- They apply not just to those on site but to those who influence the operation in any way;
- They set out a new management structure setting out the duty and responsibility of everyone including directors and contractors;
- They give far reaching rights of involvement in health and safety to the workforce, whether employed by the operator or not, and whether or not they are trade union members.
In 2009 a National Quarries Inspection Team was formed by the Health & Safety Executive in order to address the lack of consistency in inspection and enforcement in the industry and to ensure that the requirements of the Quarry Regulations are being met www.hse.gov.uk/quarries/contact.htm. A public consultation on a proposed revision of the Approved Code of Practice was undertaken in 2010 L0554.
The Quarry National Joint Advisory Committee
The Health & Safety Executive's Quarry National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) is a tripartite body with members drawn from employers, trade associations, trade unions and the regulator. It meets twice a year and produces guidance and information for the industry. More information on this Committee and its Meetings can be found on the HSE's website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/committees/qnjac/
The Hard Target Initiative (2000-2005)
In June 2000, the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee adopted the "Hard Target", an initiative aimed at halving the number of reportable accidents in the industry by 2005. At the end of this, the Industry had surpassed its 'Hard Target' by reducing all reportable injuries by 52% in the five year period.
Following the success of the Hard Target Initiative, the next stage (2005-2010) was to achieve a further 50% reduction in injuries by 2010 with the ultimate aim of zero reportable injuries. Target Zero is based on the principles of working in partnership with all stakeholders who can make a difference. Partnership working is mutually beneficial to the organisations involved, and this together with the emphasis on achieving a fully competence assured industry enables the industry to become progressively more self-sustaining and self-regulating. This can be summarised by reproducing the overall "Target Zero" vision which is:
Steady progress on the journey to Zero Harm, based upon:
- visible commitment by senior managers - frequently demonstrated in word and deed;
- the involvement of all employees - identifying and controlling risks to all;
- excellent communications in all directions - from purchase and design through to product dispatch;
- competence of managers, workforce, contractors - requirements understood and delivered in performance;
- processes effectively driving continuous improvement - embedded into established ways of doing business; and
- excellent occupational health management - meeting the highest world class standards.
The industry achieved the 2010 target for injury reduction a year ahead of schedule, reducing reportable injuries to 155 in 2009 compared to a 2010 target of 157.
In 2010 the industry pledged its support for the next phase of Target Zero by committing itself to reducing injuries by a further 15% year-on-year to 2015 compared to a 2010 baseline. Extensive advice relevant to this initiative can be found at www.hse.gov.uk/quarries/hardtarget/
Training & Competence
The Quarries Regulations requires that no person undertake any work in a quarry unless they are competent to do so. A lack of competence was demonstrated in the historically poor accident and ill health history of the industry. Much has now been done but more action is needed and is in progress. Training and competence has been the subject of a number of reports funded by the ALSF L0041, L0046, L0013, L0059, L0062a, L0062b.
Hazards in the Quarrying Industry
Hazards in the Quarrying Industry can be regarded as being either "major hazards" or "occupational hazards". "Major hazards" are those hazards such as ground stability, transport & moving machinery and use of explosives, that in terms of risk, are high consequence-low likelihood events. "Occupational hazards" are those lower consequence-higher likelihood risks such as trips & falls and manual handling that are all too common in most industries, not only quarrying. Some ALSF funded reports address some of these specific hazards:
- The safe design of quarry slopes L0056, L0060
- The design of quarry plant and machinery L0064
- Access of quarries (specifically for teenagers) L0131
The Minerals |Products Association has also prepared a website intended to inform children, teenagers and the public about quarry hazards www.mineralproducts.org/youth_playsafe01.htm
"Behaviour-based Safety" techniques can be used to try and reduce unsafe work practices by defining common employee-managerial goals, definition of what is expected, data collection, making decisions based on the data, feedback and revue. This approach was the subject of two ALSF funded reports L0061, L0063.
The development of a quarry specific management system and the use of more proactive lead indicators was the subject of a project L0061 and a great deal of the information such as techniques and checklists can be found on the "QuarrySafe" website at www.quarrysafe.com
Safeguarding the health of the work force is also important. QNJAC prepared a report on occupational health management in the quarrying industry L0142 that contains advice on management of risk as part of the overall management process. This set out six stages: identification of significant hazards; deciding who might be harmed and how; evaluation of risk, examination of current precautions; identification of changes if these prove to be inadequate; recording significant findings; and regular review. Analysis should consider how people actually work so that exposure to hazards can be properly assessed.
Factors that may affect health occur both in the quarry itself and in associated plant and other buildings. These may include, depending on the circumstances, dust, fumes and other emissions; chemicals; sensitisers that may lead to allergies; noise; vibration; contaminated land; and radiation; as well as physical hazards that could lead to eye or muscle or skeletal damage. The condition of traffic routes is also relevant. Issues that are more likely to occur in buildings, in common with most other workplaces, include temperature, lighting, cleanliness and wastes, space provision, sanitary provisions, water supply and food facilities, and provision for rest. As well as physical effects, factors leading to stress are also taken into account.