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MAJOR QUARRY FIRM FINED OVER EXPLOSION ERRORS

Blast sent rock flying 200 metres onto public road and damaged cars

Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd and WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd have been fined after a quarry explosion sent rocks flying 200m 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 on 24 February 2011, and narrowly avoided striking a workman who had halted traffic whilst the blasting took place.

WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd organised the blast, and quarry operator Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd were both prosecuted (24 July) after an investigation by 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.

Risks must be rigorously controlled by good explosives engineering practice

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.”

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