Those avoiding their health and safety responsibilities in the quarry sector are ‘bottom feeders’ who should be put out of business.
That was just part of the bluntest of messages from Tony Forster, chief inspector Mines and Extractives given to the 50 attendees at the Ashburton Health and Safety Forum in early October.
The straight-talking Scot pulled no punches, saying those who think they have a right to create widows and orphans are giving the extractives sector a bad name.
“They are not your friends; they are damaging your reputation and damaging your business.”
Forster said he had been at too many incidents dealing with bereaved families to back away from the new, emerging requirements on health and safety.
“You don’t have the right to leave a widow and orphans. The stuff I’ve seen, you don’t need to see.”
Soon we would be marking the fifth anniversary of the Pike River disaster. Those who tried to oppose the new laws and regulations would not win.
“I’m not going to apologise for a lot of the bottom feeders going out of business. If anyone wants to take us on, it’s a waste of time.”
He said there had been 20 years of neglect by the regulator which now demanded a huge effort by all to drag the sector out of a deep dark hole. This was particularly difficult for the aggregate and quarry sector because it was moving from nothing by way of requirements to stepping up in one jump.
Tony Forster said the new laws, regulations and guidelines were not perfect “but a darn site better than it was”.
Huge progress had been made in a short timeframe.
“You are now 90 percent of the way on this journey.”
He acknowledged the role being played by the quarry and aggregate sector to improve its record. Those attending the regional health and safety forums were not his target audience. “The majority of you are very good at what you do.”
He urged those with leadership roles to be advocates for better health and safety and to challenge those who glorified in creating messes and fatalities.
“If you think compliance is expensive; wait until you have an accident.”