Quarry industry worker competence

Formerly SIM 03/2005/15 and SIM 03/2007/10


This replaces SIM 03/2005/15 version 2 and SIM 03/2007/10. It outlines what quarry inspectors should cover when checking compliance with the competence requirements in the Quarries Regulations 1999 (QR1999) and enforcement expectations if shortcomings are found. It includes guidance on recognised qualifications, how they relate to necessary competences and arrangements for maintaining and improving the levels of competence through Continuing Professional Development (CPD).


The quarrying industry remains one of the most dangerous in which to work. Investigations into incidents have often identified a lack of competence as an underlying cause.  Checking the competence of all those involved is, therefore, an important element of quarry inspection.     

The competence of those involved in blasting operations (eg shotfirers and explosives supervisors) is crucial.  Blasting is potentially one of the most dangerous operations in quarrying.  As well as the risks associated with the storage, transport and handling of explosives, there are risks associated with firing the shot itself both on and off-site (eg should flyrock go beyond the danger zone).    

The Mineral Products Qualifications Council (MPQC) and other relevant industry Sector Skills Councils / standards setting organisations have prepared national occupational standards (NOS) for quarry working.

The NOS specify the underpinning knowledge and understanding needed and set out the standards of performance individuals must achieve when carrying out functions in the workplace. These NOS have been used to develop relevant national qualifications (QCF/NVQ SQCF/SVQ) which, provided the correct modules have been achieved, can be taken to demonstrate compliance with the NOS.


  • Appendix 1 for the NOS & qualifications for general competence,
  • Appendix 2 for blasting and related operations (shotfirers, explosives supervisors and others with a role) NOS & qualifications,
  • Appendix 3 for enforcement guidance.


For quarry inspections inspectors should always

for general competence, check:

  • what steps the operator has taken to verify the competence of the workforce, which means:
    • covering all those who work at the site, whether or not they are direct employees of the quarry operator;
    • covering those in the management structure whose decisions may affect the safe working of the quarry but who may not actually be based at the site;
    • looking, for many of these, at the extent to which competence qualifications obtained measure up to the relevant national occupational standards (NOS) – see Appendix 1;
  • the arrangements for undertaking and recording CPD – see Appendix 1;
  • the arrangements for ensuring that those workers who do not have the requisite level of competence to carry out their work are working safely under someone who is competent to provide the necessary instruction and supervision;

for blasting and related operations competence (shotfirers, explosives supervisors and others with a role), in addition to the above, check:

  • the competence of shotfirers, explosives supervisors and others with roles in blasting operations; including:
    • the extent to which competence qualifications obtained meet the relevant NOS for blasting operations – see Appendix 2.
    • completion of the training required by QR1999 regulation 26 as well as the necessary experience;
  • adequate arrangements are in place:
    • to supervise and train workers who do not have the requisite level of competence by those who are competent to provide the necessary instruction and supervision;
    • for training and supervising trainee shotfirers in accordance with QR1999 regulation 26.

In incident investigations, inspectors should always pursue the competence of those involved.  

See Appendix 3 for enforcement guidance.


QR1999 regulation 9 requires a quarry operator to ensure that no-one undertakes any work at the quarry unless they are:

  • competent; or
  • they carry out the work under the instruction and supervision of someone else who is competent to provide the necessary instruction and supervision for the purposes of training. 

Regulation 2(1) defines a competent person as "a person with sufficient training, experience, knowledge and other qualities to enable him to properly undertake the duties assigned to him". 

Regulation 7 also requires the operator to demonstrate that there are adequate measures in place to safeguard the health and safety of:

  • persons at the quarry; and
  • those in the area immediately surrounding the quarry who are directly affected by the activities of the quarry.

This includes setting out the authority and duties of all those in the management structure. This information can then be used to define the necessary competences. However:

  • whilst academic qualifications (eg University of Derby Diploma, mining or quarrying degrees, MScs) provide evidence of good underpinning knowledge, they are not sufficient to demonstrate competence;
  • nor is it sufficient to claim competence through years of experience. 

NOS form the basis for nationally recognised competency qualifications such as those obtained through the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).  Operators can use competency qualifications capable of meeting the relevant NOS to demonstrate that those working at their quarry are competent.  See Appendix 1 and Appendix 2.       


No special visits or other organisational requirements are involved.

Further References


FOD Construction Division, Operations 5 – National Quarries Inspection Team


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Updated 2020-12-15