Working in a quarry is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. It has a higher fatality and incident rate than the construction and manufacturing industries. Accidents and fatalities in quarries are due to maintenance work, the use of vehicles, fixed machinery and falls from height. Many incidents occur during the cleaning and adjustment of machinery while it is running or during an unexpected start up of equipment while it is being worked on. Occupational diseases and accidents can occur as a result of large moving vehicles, dusty atmospheres and the use of explosives. Noise and vibrations and hazardous materials may pose many hazards for workers on site. There is also the social drawback; many workers may have to do shift work and work under time pressures which may escalate the risk of hazards.
Legislations which apply to working in quarries include The Quarries Regulations 1999. This is to protect the health and safety of workers at a quarry and includes the self employed and passers-by or those living near a quarry that may be susceptible to hazards. There are many other regulations that apply to quarry work; these include The Work at Height Regulations 2005, Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 and Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, among others.
One of the main risks when working in a quarry involve the faces. A ‘quarry face’ is a slope in the quarry where the mineral is being excavated or it may be still un-extracted. Risks may come from falling lose rocks, materials and vehicles driving over the edges of the faces. Risks involving vehicles may be the result of driver misjudgment and faulty machines and may result in crashing into other vehicles and incorrect reversing. Much machinery related accidents in quarries can occur as a result of workers being trapped or entangled in machinery. Falling objects such as rocks is another common form of injury in quarries. Pollution nose, which may include that coming from stone crushers, explosions and heavy vehicles, is another common occupational hazard experienced at quarries. Workers may also experience distress from hand held vibrating machines and whole body vibrations from some fixed plant machinery. Dust will be present at all times because of the milling, cutting and crushing of stones.
Quarries need to be regularly inspected. An inspection may be visual or may involve testing or dismantling. The extent of the inspection scheme depends on the work activities, the nature of the materials, weather conditions, tips and quarry faces. Faces should be inspected so that they do not have lose rock or ground that may pose a risk to workers. They may have to be inspected at the beginning of every shift. The inspection scheme should include safety devices such as reversing aids, electrical equipment, pedestrian routes, evacuations and tips, pressure systems and any barriers around the quarry. Defects should be noted. Records should be kept on all inspections and the work that was done to mitigate against and control the risks.