UK company in court again after dangerous quarry blast
02 March 2015
A Somerset company has been fined after a quarry blast sent rocks of up to 15 kilos flying outside a danger zone toward employees and across a public road. Falling rocks narrowly avoided hitting workers as they landed well outside the designated blast zone at Moons Hill Quarry, Stoke St Michael near Shepton Mallet on 7 February 2012.
Rocks also fell onto a public highway, exposing road users to unacceptable danger.
Frome-based WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd, who organised the blast, were prosecuted on February 27 after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious control failings.
Bristol Crown Court heard that workers acting as sentries outside the danger area were aware of rocks flying above their heads and landing all around them immediately after the blast. Rocks also landed in the processing plant area of the quarry, which is on the other side of a public road.
HSE inspectors discovered the blast had not been properly planned, that too much explosive was used in an area where the ground was already broken and measures to reduce the risks were inadequate.
Sleeman was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The court heard the firm was prosecuted after a similar offence in Devon when it was fined £20,000 with £17,000 costs in 2013.
HSE inspector Catherine Pickett described the incident as “very serious” and put the public and employees at risk of death or injury. “Blasting operations at quarries are potentially very dangerous. The risks must be rigorously controlled by good explosives engineering practice and in accordance with legal requirements.
“Quarrying remains one of the most dangerous industries to work in with 3,250 injuries, including 27 fatalities, reported to HSE since 2000.
“This is not the first time WCD Sleeman and Sons have been prosecuted for similar offences that have put people at considerable risk and I hope they take more heed of the lessons to be learned. Proper planning and control is required at all times in the quarrying industry. The option of stopping and re-evaluating the blasting operation for safety is always available to shotfirers, and in this case would have avoided danger.”