In the original printed version of this article – Q&M magazine June-July 2015 – it was mistakenly said that, “In February last year worker Gavin Stewart, 47, died after being hit by a truck at Matatoki Quarry, south of Thames.”
Although widely reported as such – this was wrong.
We now understand the accident had nothing to do with the named quarry and happened on Matatoki Quarry Road and involved a logging truck and its driver. We regret perpetuating the mistake and apologise to Matatoki Quarry.
The health and safety reputation of the quarrying industry drew allegations from labour representatives that it has been “avoiding” health and safety regulations after two site deaths within a short period of time.
In April this year a 25-year-old quarry worker, Tane Hill-Ormsby, was crushed under his 45-tonne truck (widely misquoted in the media as a “rock cutter” after Police called it a ‘rock carter’) rolled at Oropi Quarry in Tauranga.
The month before, 43-year old Scott Baldwin was killed at Gordons Valley Lime Company, south of Timaru.
Labour representatives point out that while H&S laws for mining were strengthened in 2013 in response to the Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine tragedy, the Government opted to work with the quarry industry to develop specific guidelines, with a longer-term view to developing regulations.
“After lobbying from industry and assurances that quarries were safer than mines, the Government excluded quarries from the protections of the new law,” says Council of Trade Unions general counsel, Jeff Sissons.
The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union’s assistant national secretary, Ged O’Connell, pitched in with a stronger statement claiming the industry has spent the last couple of years trying to avoid good health and safety regulations while injuries and deaths continued.
“They [quarry companies] were alarmed at the requirements that were going to be put on them so obviously they had influence with the Government, they got themselves out,” he reportedly said. “But I think they need to move quickly and put some proper laws and regulations in place so people stop dying in their industry.”
O’Connell did concede that the industry’s health and safety working group Minex, has been doing good work on drafting guidelines and raising awareness, but claims progress has been too slow.
Roger Parton, chief executive director of the Aggregate and Quarry Association, disagrees and says the industry has not placed pressure on the Government to avoid coming under health and safety regulations. Too many aspects of the new mining regulations simply did not apply to quarrying, he says.
“We have to make sure we get it right, and the association has been working hard with the Government towards that.”
It has been widely reported that in the two years to September 2014, there were 242 reported injuries in quarries compared to 56 in underground mines.
Parton says the problem with reporting industry incidents and accidents in general is that it is done on a voluntary basis, and this needs to change. “Without good data it is difficult to benchmark how the industry compared with other industries or other countries.” Existing regulations are poorly understood, he adds, particularly by smaller operators.
“We need good regulations, guidelines that are easy to understand and enforce, so everyone knows what’s expected of them.”
Meanwhile, WorkSafe is still developing new Best Practice Guidelines that cover quarrying and surface mines. These are currently in draft form and out for consultation with the industry. They are expected to be published later this year.
Two dedicated WorkSafe inspectors are currently visiting quarries and the agency intends to add another two later this year.