The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) has begun a two week quarry safety inspection campaign, focusing on safe machinery operation, machinery guarding and maintenance activities.
According to the Geological Survey of Ireland (GSI) there are approximately 500 quarry developments operating throughout Ireland. There are two main types – rock quarries and sand and gravel pit quarries, both of which use heavy and large machinery.
In the ten year period 2012-2021 Quarrying, Mining and the associated manufacturing activities in the industry accounted for 10 work-related fatalities in Ireland.
HSA inspectors will be conducting quarry safety inspections over the two week campaign focusing on the key hazards that exist when operating quarry machinery or while carrying out machinery maintenance in quarries. Inspectors will also focus on ensuring that safe work practices and proactive measures are in place to reduce the risk of incidents, including serious or fatal injury.
The Authority is concerned at the high level of incidents that occur as the direct result of:
- unsafe machinery operation,
- inadequate guarding or no guarding of hazardous moving machine parts,
- lack of adequate risk assessments during maintenance activities, and
- lack of proper isolation procedures during planned and unplanned maintenance.
On that basis the HSA inspectors will be seeking evidence of the following:
- Routine inspection of machinery guarding.
- Routine inspection of emergency stops and emergency pull cords.
- Planned maintenance procedures and risk assessments for all planned and unplanned, maintenance activities.
- The implementation of the outcome of risk assessments to ensure that these work activities are carried out safely, including “Lock Out/Tag Out” systems.
- That employees receive information, instruction and safety training relevant to the tasks that are undertaken.
- That equipment and machinery used in maintenance activity is suitable for the task.
Pat Griffin, Senior Inspector, HSA stated on the launch of the campaign that “Quarries and manufacturing plants within quarries are potentially hazardous workplaces due to the large and powerful machinery used on a daily basis. However, these risks are measurable and manageable, and we are asking employers to fulfil their duty of care to their employees, contractors and any visitors to quarries.
“As with any hazardous workplace environment, we urge employers to actively carry out risk assessments and put in place appropriate control measures including safe ways of working. The outcome of these risk assessments must be communicated to all those involved in the work while ensuring they all receive instruction and safety training relevant to the tasks that are undertaken.”
During this campaign, HSA Inspectors will be providing information, advice and making employers aware of resources available to help them reduce the risk of incidents involving machinery particularly during machinery maintenance.
There are a number of initiatives planned for 2022 to address the issues that are the main causes of work-related injuries in Irish quarries and the HSA continues to work closely with industry and employer groups to reduce the injury rates at quarries.