Quarries sector strategy 2012-15

Sector description

Anecdotal evidence suggests an ageing workforce. The industry has difficulty attracting and recruiting staff but is taking steps to counteract this, including increasing the availability of apprenticeships.

As a result, the industry's desire to improve and attract quality recruits is a powerful driver for its generally positive attitude to health and safety. Reputation is a strong influence for improvements, as are trade associations.

The generally good standards of health and safety exhibited by larger organisations are not always replicated in SMEs. Although they have ready access to health and safety information from a variety of sources, SMEs are less able to obtain competent advice, leading to a lack of effective implementation.

Key stakeholders

Trade associations have demonstrated a strong commitment to driving an improvement in health and safety standards.

QNJAC produces guidance and information, and motivates the sector to achieve health and safety improvements through its Target Zero initiative. Its key objective is to reduce injuries by 15% year-on-year up to 2015 from 2010 baseline. The resulting peer pressure and drive for improvements has led to free exchange of health and safety information between members.

All major players in the industry have signed up to the Target Zero campaign.

Key health and safety issues

The industry is developing sector-specific training courses for both TU and non-TU members to increase worker representation and health and safety knowledge.

Safety issues

Quarrying is a dangerous industry, often carried out in poor environmental conditions. Coupled with the routine use of heavy vehicles and machinery, this creates a workplace where effective management of work-related risks is essential if serious injury is to be avoided.

Over the last ten years, a concerted effort by industry and HSE has reduced the number of accidents by 76% (based on corrected RIDDOR reports).

Key safety issues are:

The industry has identified a need for increased worker involvement and joint working between managers and employees on safety issues.

MPA members have committed to become fully competence-assured for management. However, this does not encompass the entire sector and there needs to be a wider commitment to increasing competence, especially among SMEs, where safety management issues linked to insufficient knowledge and leadership remain.

There are two low frequency–high consequence issues: slope stability and the use of explosives. They are generally well understood and controlled, but there is still the potential for a major incident. Collation of RIDDOR data in relation to both these risks allows for the identification and targeting of poor practices, including design.

Quarry operators need to exercise strong leadership to ensure there is accountability for risk control and that consistent safety management is applied throughout the direct and contracted workforce. This is particularly important given that the trend to contract out certain activities (such as drilling and blasting) has resulted in a mixture of direct employees, contractor employees and self-employed workers on many sites. Improvement in training and safe systems of work will help ensure safety procedures are followed. It is also important that industry regularly reviews its performance to identify key learning points for sharing good leadership and best practice across the sector.

Although comparatively rare, drowning incidents involving the public – often children – still occur. This can mainly be attributed to a lack of risk awareness by the public rather than dutyholder complacency. Industry control of this risk is generally good, but any incidents usually have a high media profile.

Health issues

The main health issue is potential exposure to respirable crystalline silica from minerals such as sand, gravel, granite and gritstones. This is linked to serious respiratory diseases such as silicosis, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Large, modern plant and equipment tends to have exposure controls applied as standard, but the effectiveness depends upon regular, proficient maintenance. Actions (or lack of) by managers and supervisors can undermine control regimes.

The industry needs to increase its understanding and awareness of the risks from silica exposure and how to control them, particularly in SMEs. Effective leadership is important to achieving this.

MPA members are required to monitor exposure levels and report them annually, motivating most large operators to have suitable prevention and maintenance regimes in place. This is less likely among SMEs, who often do not have the same access to professional expertise and lack equivalent peer pressure to ensure that they effectively monitor exposure.

Legislation and regulation

The Quarries Regulations 1999 consolidated a number of codes of regulations and brought all of the legislation relating to operational quarries under a single set of Regulations.

Local authorities enforce the requirement for boundary fencing for closed mines. Obtaining, keeping and storage of explosives are enforced by the police and local authorities.

Strategic regulatory and sector approach

HSE established the National Quarries Inspection Team (NQIT) in 2009 to improve the effectiveness of HSE's regulation of the industry.

NQIT has invested a significant proportion of resource in regulating larger employers in a coordinated and strategic manner, due to their greater aggregate potential to cause harm through the numbers of workers employed and the scale of their operations. If larger employers can lead further improvements through Target Zero, then this will free up more resource to deal with poorer-performing companies.

Future trends

This sector has accepted its role in improving health and safety outcomes but it needs to drive this commitment through all levels of the industry.

Effective leadership needs to be in place throughout the management chain to ensure adequate supervision and ownership of risk. All those working in quarries need to be able to better recognise work-related risks and understand their role in mitigating them.

Accordingly, increasing and then maintaining industry health and safety leadership, competence and worker involvement are key focuses of this strategy.

Aims for 2012-15


Senior managers, supervisors and contractors in the quarry industry recognise and accept their responsibility for delivering good health and safety


People at every level within quarrying companies and their contractors are competent to manage their own risks and know when and where to seek advice

Worker involvement

Quarrying companies and their contractors ensure that directors, managers and workers work together to prevent work-related ill-health and injury

Health issues

Quarrying companies and their contractors know where to access the information, support and advice they need, enabling them to take action to prevent and effectively manage work-related ill-health risks

Safety issues

Quarrying companies and their contractors actively seek new ways to reduce accidents, particularly within high-risk areas and where progress has slowed

Avoiding catastrophe

Quarrying companies with high-hazard, low-probability (HHLP) issues recognise and understand the potential for catastrophic safety incidents from their business and take proportionate measures to control the risk, providing appropriate wider assurance

Updated 2021-02-25