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July 29, 2010

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Quarry fined £30k for vehicle plunge

A quarry worker escaped with minor injuries after the 30-tonne wheel-loader vehicle he was driving overturned and slid 16 feet down a sand stockpile.

Beverly Magistrates’ Court heard that the employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, was being trained as a wheel-loader operator at North Cave Quarry, which is owned by Humberside Aggregates and Excavations Ltd, near Hull. The site is used to excavate sand and gravel.

On 30 October 2009, the worker was operating the wheel loader to transport material from the site’s processing plant to a stockpile. He was driving the vehicle towards the processing plant when the access ramp he was driving on gave way, which caused the machine to overturn and plunge to the bottom of the stockpile.

He was able to climb out of the vehicle and make his way to the top of the stockpile, where he collapsed and lost consciousness. He suffered a concussion and was hospitalised for two days.

The HSE visited the site on the day of the incident and found that there were no edge-protection barriers in place around the access ramp. The inspector immediately issued a Prohibition Notice to stop the work from continuing until edge protection was put in place.

On 25 November 2009, the quarry was issued three separate Improvement Notices, which required it to keep an up-to-date scheme of inspections, create suitable vehicle regulations for use in the quarry, and put in place safe excavation and tip rules.

Humberside Aggregates and Excavations appeared in court on 28 July and pleaded guilty to breaching reg. 6(1) of the Quarries Regulations 1999, for failing to take adequate steps to protect workers, and reg. 12(a) and 13(b) of the same legislation, for not implementing a regular scheme of inspections, and not having edge protection in place. It was fined £10,000 for each breach and ordered to pay £10,590 in costs.

In mitigation, the firm said it has no previous convictions and entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. It told the court that it fully cooperated with the HSE’s investigation and complied with all the enforcement notices.
Following the hearing, HSE inspector Richard Noble said: “This accident could have been avoided had sufficient edge protection been put in place at minimal cost, which has been the standard within the quarrying industry for many years.

“Quarrying remains one of the most dangerous industries to work in. Since 2000 more than 3000 workers have suffered an injury reportable to HSE and 24 people have been killed. Workplace transport is the industry’s biggest cause of fatal accidents, and that is why the industry and HSE work together in a joint advisory committee to introduce good practices for quarry operators.

“We are working very hard to reduce these accidents and fatalities. HSE produce much guidance on how to avoid them, so the reasons why this accident occurred are inexcusable.”

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