Historically, mobile plant and other vehicles have been the main source of accidents in the quarrying industry. The high number of movements on site each day, coupled with the nature of the mobile plant and the working environment, meant that around half of all fatal accidents in quarries prior to 1997 were vehicle related.
During the late 1990s, quarry operators, with HSE’s active support, were at the forefront in trialling different types of aid to driver vision with the aim of reducing or eliminating blind spots. It rapidly became the industry norm to fit convex mirrors and rear CCTV to mobile plant.
Such additions improve driver safety by making visible the edge protection, tipping points, and obstructions and ditches, while also improving the safety of people outside the vehicle by enabling the driver to see smaller machines or any pedestrians nearby.
Additional reversing aids such as radar are also specified as standard by some quarry operators, or fitted where risk assessment identifies it as necessary.
These actions have had a fundamental effect on improving safety in the industry, and operators in other related industries could learn a lot from them. The last fatal quarry accident where visibility was a contributory factor was in 2000. Under the successful Hard Target Initiative (reducing quarry reportable accidents by 50% between 2000 and 2005), continuing effort to end “struck by vehicle” accidents has continued, with a reduction of 63% over five years.
However, the industry’s attention is now turning to another aspect of mobile plant that causes significant injuries and lost time, that of falls from vehicles. The figures say it all.
In 2003-04, three out of the five fatal accidents due to falls from vehicles across all industries occurred in quarrying.
During 2007 the HSE will be running a campaign focusing on preventing falls from vehicles. The quarrying industry is already acting on this recognised problem and it is important we stress why.
Some operators have attributed up to a quarter of all the accidents in their quarries to be related to climbing on or off mobile plant, either for driving or maintenance purposes.
In the same way that visibility equipment was trialled in the 1990s, during the last few years many quarry operators have been trialling, making and purchasing additional equipment to improve access and egress for drivers of mobile plant.
Last year a subcommitee of the Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee (QNJAC) – reported on the safety features of mobile plant which quarry operators wish to see, and which they are aspiring to make the norm. This included aspects relating to safe access, such as:
- Inclined stairway
- Fixed bottom step (may be retractable)
- Landing platform with handrails, mid-rail and toe board
- Non-slip surfaces
- Lighting switched from ground level
- Standard maintenance possible from ground level
[img_assist|nid=13090|title=|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=265|height=400]The Construction Equipment Association, which represents mobile plant suppliers, has a seat on the QNJAC, and with its overseas counterparts is now actively engaged with the international extractive industry to see how such improvements can be built into their designs for the plant of the future.
At the same time as addressing safe access on their own plant, operators are also recognising the need to assist hauliers to comply with their health and safety obligations, with regard to the safety of drivers when receiving and managing their loads on quarry sites.
Improving the interface between quarry operators and contractors, including hauliers, is one of the priorities identified by the QNJAC. A subcommittee chaired by the QNJAC representative of Road Haulage Association will be considering the way forward.
Many operators have focussed on ensuring safe methods of sheeting loads, and automated sheeting operated from ground level is now widespread.
Helen: 029 20263076