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Firms fined for North Devon quarry blast damage

Date:
25 July 2013

Two companies have been fined after a quarry explosion sent rocks flying 200 metres into the air and onto a public road, causing damage to waiting cars.

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

Frome-based WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd, who organised the blast, and quarry operator Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd were both prosecuted yesterday (24 July) 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 and 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, of Valley View, Vallis Park, Frome, Somerset, was 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.

Quarry operator Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd of Castle Hill, Maidenhead, Berkshire, was 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."

Quarrying remains one of the most dangerous industries to work in with 3,250 injuries, including 27 fatalities, reported to HSE since 2000.

Further information on quarry safety can be found on the HSE website at http://www.hse.gov.uk/quarries/

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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