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Firms fined for quarry blast damage

Firms fined for quarry blast damage

Blast at Brayford Quarry in North Devon sends fly rock on to public road and damages waiting cars

HANSON and WCD Sleeman have both been fined after a quarry blast sent rocks flying 200 metres into the air and on to a public road, causing damage to waiting cars.

The falling blast debris landed well outside of the designated danger zone during the incident at Brayford Quarry in North Devon, on 24 February 2011, and narrowly avoided striking a workman who had halted traffic while the blasting took place.

Frome-based WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd, who organized the blast, and quarry operators Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd were both prosecuted after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious control failings.

Barnstaple Magistrates’ Court heard that two cars waiting in the queue on a nearby public road were hit by flying rock, which dented the bonnet of one and a smashed the windscreen of the other.

HSE inspectors discovered an 8.5kg piece of rock on the other side of the road. Six other smaller pieces of rock were also recovered from the road.

A workman acting as a sentry on the road to manage traffic during the blasting heard the rocks coming through the trees. He covered his head with his stop-go board and took cover next to a large van which was waiting on the road. The driver of the van saw pieces of rock pass over the workman.

WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd were fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £17,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd were fined £20,000 with £14,000 costs after pleading guilty to single a breach of the Quarries Regulations 1999.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector of Quarries, Mike Tetley, said: ‘This was a very serious incident that could easily have led to death or serious injury.

‘Blasting operations at quarries are inherently high risk, and these risks must be rigorously controlled by good explosives engineering practice and in accordance with legal requirements.

‘Where contractors are involved, it is important that appropriate levels of communication and co-operation are in place. It is totally unacceptable for both members of the public and employees to be put at serious risk of being hit by rocks, as happened here in an entirely preventable incident.

‘I hope this case sends a clear message to the industry that proper planning and control is required at all times.’

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