For Those About to Rock – Be Careful

When a firm places the general public at risk, there has to be an investigation into whether the firm did everything they could to prevent the accident or near-miss taking case.

In most cases, there will always be something that can be done to prevent the problem from arising, but there can be accidents that are caused through no fault of the firm or where any real action could have been taken to prevent the issue.

There is clearly a need for businesses to have through health and safety plans and training in place and there are some businesses where this is more relevant to than others.

A company from Frome has been fined a total of £30,000 after a quarry blast took place close to Stoke St Michael. The blast saw a number of rocks, some weighing 15kg, flying out of the danger zone.

This placed employees at risk and with rocks also flying across a public road, there was a danger to the general public. The incident happened at Moons Hill Quarry and some of the rocks narrowly missed employees of the firm, who were operating a good distance away from the designated danger zone for the firm.

The company who was behind the blast, WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd, have been prosecuted after an investigation was carried out by the Health and Safety Executive, HSE. The investigation uncovered a number of serious issues and failings which meant that the company was deemed to be at blame for the incident.

Employees watched rocks fly overhead

The case was heard in the Crown Court of Bristol and it was reported that employees, who were acting as sentries well outside of the danger area, became aware of the rocks passing overhead and falling all around them. The rocks were also said to have landed in the quarries processing plant section, which is found on the other side of a public road from the blast site.

The investigation uncovered that the blast hadn’t been planned properly with an excessive amount of explosives being used. With the area featuring ground that had already been broken, it was deemed that insufficient measures were put in place in order to minimise any risks or problems.

The company was fined £30,000 and they were also ordered to pay £20,000 in costs. This was after the firm pleaded guilty to being in breach of “Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.”

The incident happened on the 7th of February in 2012 and it turns out that the company has been involved in a similar situation. The court was informed that the firm had been involved in a case in Devon which resulted in the firm being fined £20,000 and being ordered to pay £17,000 in costs.

This was an extremely serious incident

An Inspector for the HSE, Catherine Pickett, said; “This was a very serious incident, which put both members of the public and employees at serious risk of being hit by rocks and could easily have led to death or serious 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.”

Any firm that is subjected to a health and safety at work investigation should obtain the best standard of support that they can. This is because experienced and professional legal support from people who have expertise and experience in this matter will ensure that you get the best level of guidance and support.

This can be a trying time for a company and many of the people involved so there is a genuine need to have the highest standard of support in place for this style of investigation.

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