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QNJAC promoting health and safety guidance at Hillhead 2024

Ben Williams, chairman of QNJAC Ben Williams, chairman of QNJAC

First published in the June 2024 issue of Quarry Management as QNJAC on the Stand

In the run up to Hillhead 2024, Ben Williams, chairman of the QNJAC (Quarries National Joint Advisory Committee) board, together with chairpersons from the organization’s dedicated working groups, talked about their involvement with the multifaceted body and their priorities for the coming months

Joining Hillhead 2024 as part of the Institute of Quarrying (IoQ) stand, QNJAC volunteers from across the quarrying and extractive industry will be on hand to discuss the promotion of the organization’s health and safety guidance, which is relevant to all sectors of the quarrying and associated industry. Focus too will be placed on detailing QNJAC’s commitment to making the operating environment a safer place by raising training standards and competence levels.

Mutual mission

QNJAC collectively represents employers, employees, the government regulator (Health and Safety Executive, HSE), professional membership bodies, trade unions, trade associations, and industry training and educational organizations.

Through the sub-committees and working groups that have been created to focus on specific projects, QNJAC reviews regulations, innovations, accident and incident reports, best practice, and new technologies, and uses the information gathered to produce updated industry guidance.


Once approved by the QNJAC Board Governance procedure, these guidance documents are published on This information, along with self-audits, can help employers understand the regulations that relate to them, support the creation of action plans to resolve any gaps, and help in applying updated guidance to individual operating environments.

There are seven QNJAC working groups – Geotechnical, Contractors, Leadership & Workforce Engagement, Communications, Health & Wellbeing, Mobile Plant, and Drilling & Blasting – with each priding itself on the passionate approach taken to helping people working in the quarrying and extractive industry to consistently stay safe.

Explaining more about QNJAC’s efficacy, chairman Ben Williams said: ‘QNJAC, which was developed to support the original Target Zero initiative, is so impactful because of its tripartite and voluntary nature. With the HSE, unions, and employers all present during discussions and committed, with the passion to ensure the industry can create good guidance on the most recent quarry regulations, there’s a mutually understood, baseline knowledge among the collective regarding what’s needed and expected to keep operations safe.

‘IQ is the independent chair of QNJAC and maintains the group’s momentum. On the Hillhead stand our volunteers want to demonstrate their passion for helping people to consistently work in safe environments, raise awareness of the current safety issues affecting our industry, and support its needs as it continues to evolve.’

On the agenda

Here is more from the chair of each working group, as they give an overview of their involvement with QNJAC and the benefits the organization delivers, whilst sharing details of the individual priorities their group has for the coming months:

L-R: Rob Palmer, Cath Pickett and Rob Cross L-R: Rob Palmer, Cath Pickett and Rob Cross

Geotechnical Group: Chair, Rob Palmer – Head of technical services, Tarmac a CRH company

‘The Geotechnical Group is passionate about our industry and geotechnics and I’m proud to be a part of the team. Together we harness the diverse professional experience that’s needed to formulate robust technical guidance, and we have opportunities for new members to join and further our ability to make a difference.

‘Whilst Quarries Regulations are robust, there is a consistent need to maintain their focus and ensure that associated guidance and opportunities for discussion remain fresh and engaging. In our next site-based meeting we’ll discuss priorities, safety themes, and successes of the last year, including establishing our first face-to-face technical discussion forum, which we intend to repeat. We’re reviewing and rebranding older guidance and are in the advanced stages of producing new work associated with emergency procedures and geotechnical assessments.’

Contractors Group: Joint chair, Cath Pickett – National health and safety manager, Chepstow Plant International Ltd

‘I have been involved in QNJAC for 15 years, working on various committees within prior roles. Over that time, I’ve valued the opportunities to develop working relationships outside my day-to-day network and influence positive change. QNJAC has the unique ability to bring together decision-makers from across the industry, the HSE, and unions, into one forum that develops practical tools and guidance, for industry – by industry.

‘Looking ahead, our group is working to prioritize the development of a self-audit document that can be used by contractors and clients alike to encourage improvements in site safety performance.’

Contractors Group: Joint chair, Robert Cross – National operations manager, EPC-UK

‘I have drawn on QNJAC’s expertise throughout my career and in various roles. Being involved in this important subcommittee has helped me to understand the wider perspective of other sectors in which I don’t have direct involvement. The contractors’ self-audit document mentioned by Cath will work to provide a single point of focus for both the contractor and clients to use within their operations, helping to ensure continuous improvement in the health and safety of all parties involved.’

L-R: Malcolm Mellow, Mike Phillips, Katherine Evans and Bob Woolley L-R: Malcolm Mellow, Mike Phillips, Katherine Evans and Bob Woolley

Leadership and Workforce Engagement Group: Chair, Malcolm Mellow – Convenor/safety advisor, union safety representative for Unite the Union, working at Imerys Minerals Ltd UK

‘I have been involved in QNJAC since 1998, when I was invited to join as a workforce representative. Performing as a member of the Leadership and Workforce Engagement working group ever since, mostly as Chair, I have contributed to the success of winning awards for producing and updating group guidance. The focus of the group has, over time, moved towards greater ownership in relation to safety improvement through good guidance, and I’m pleased to say that in coming months we’ll be working to enable publication of all our most recent updates.’

Communications Group: Chair, Mike Phillips – chief executive officer of The British Aggregates Association and director of MinExp Ltd and MinTrain Ltd

‘The diverse range of subjects covered by QNJAC, together with the organization’s ability to act quickly regarding new topic areas, has enabled safety improvement success to be made within our vital sector. I have been involved with the group since 2007. During my time as a board member, I have created the initial Communications Subgroup, chaired the Mental Health, Wellbeing and Stress Group, and have also had representation on the other working parties. Before becoming Chair of the Communications Group, I was Chair of Health & Wellbeing, a role that will now be taken by consultant Katherine Evans from Bold as Brass Gender Equity Services.

‘Speaking personally, I feel that the role performed by QNJAC and the opportunities I have had to work with the organization have supported my professional development and provided me with learning opportunities as well as an invaluable business network. As accident and incident figures steadily rise, I believe it’s a critical time to focus on key areas where differences can be made, and I’d invite those with the passion to become a part of QNJAC to speak to us at Hillhead.

‘For now, the immediate priority for the Communications group is to further promote QNJAC on the stand, ready to build awareness of the QNJAC WhatsApp channel and website.’

Health & Wellbeing Group: Chair, Katherine Evans – Consultant, Bold as Brass Gender Equity Services

‘The world has changed rapidly since 2020 and we’ve seen a huge societal shift in realizing that not all is equal. By being made up of industry people of different businesses there is now even greater ownership of QNJAC’s mission. If we want to maintain succession plans in businesses, we need to focus on people-first policies, taking intersectionality into account and addressing the bias that has stopped everyone being safe up until this point.

‘I have worked in the extractive industries for 15 years but in that time have seen very little change in terms of equity for people of marginalized communities. Through my voluntary role with QNJAC I am bringing end-user experience, thought leadership, and a voice for the under-represented to the table. Picking up the Wellbeing baton from Mike Phillips, I’ll be starting work on a women’s health and safety self-audit for businesses in forthcoming weeks.’

Drilling & Blasting Group: Chair, Bob Woolley – Head of health, safety, environment and quality for Northern Europe, EPC-UK

‘Our members know what good practice looks like and how to implement it. This means that the relevant, useable guidance and support QNJAC produces for operators really does help to improve levels of competence and enhance awareness. Currently, our group is progressing work on a self-assessment audit form that is designed to be split into different sections, including management systems, drilling, surveying and profiling, blasting specifications, and storage and transportation. This will help ease the process of assuring compliance moving forward. In addition, we’re reviewing the Blasting National Occupational Standards and plan to re-evaluate our suite of drilling and blasting toolbox talks.

‘At Hillhead 2024, I’d encourage anyone with the passion to improve safety in our vital industry to visit the IoQ stand. By working collaboratively, our QNJAC platform will further maintain the high safety standards needed by all.’

During the three-day Hillhead event, QNJAC volunteers will be sharing QR code-triggered sign-up cards for the new QNJAC WhatsApp guidance notification group, giving visitors the opportunity to follow and share QNJAC’s developments. Visit: or connect via the LinkedIn group.


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