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New national quarry safety team formed

A NEW team of HSE inspectors has been set up to crack down on death, injury and ill health in quarries and opencast coal mines across the UK. The inspectors will operate nationwide, dedicating their time solely to advising, inspecting and carrying out any necessary enforcement action in quarries and opencast mines.

This latest approach marks a departure for the inspectors, who previously worked in a range of industries. The UK quarrying sector itself is one of the most dangerous to work in. According to the HSE, since 2000 more than 20 workers have died and over 2,700 people have suffered a reportable injury.

However, significant improvements in safety are being made. The industry exceeded its target to reduce reportable incidents by 50% in the five years to 2005 and is now looking forward to Target Zero – a drive to achieve zero reportable incidents.    

Speaking at the launch, Colin Mew, principal inspector of the new Quarries National Inspection Team, commented: ‘We all know the quarrying industry. We are experts in the safe use of explosives and in other safety critical areas such as tip and slope stability, so it makes sense to concentrate on that expertise and resource. It will also help protect and preserve the specialist skill set of our inspectors for the benefit of the industry and the safety of its workers well into the future.’

He continued: ‘The industry is making encouraging progress in reducing death and injury, but much remains to be done. Falls from height and accidents involving vehicles are still some of the main causes of injury – many serious or fatal. Occupational ill health, as a result of exposure to silica or high levels of noise, can also affect quarry workers.

‘Our new team will be dedicated to helping improve all aspects of health and safety by working with the quarrying and opencast coal industries and those employed in them.’

Martin Isles, director of health and safety at the MPA, added: ‘We strongly support this latest HSE move to ensure consistency across Great Britain. The employers and trade unions accept that Target Zero will benefit from this important national initiative. We, therefore, welcome the formation of the Quarries National Inspection Team and trust that the pooled expertise will quickly become recognized as a valuable focus for development of this concept in the future.’

Richard Bird of the British Aggregates Association commented: ‘We welcome the positive moves by HSE to ensure that quarry operations are managed properly in the area of health and safety. Not only will this ensure that the workforce and members of the public are protected, but it will assist in guiding quarry operators through the increasing maze of health and safety legislation.’

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