Quarry excavation design and safe working practices

Formerly SIM 03/2005/11 - Face heights and safe working practices in rock quarries under the falls from height priority programme


This replaces SIM 03/2005/11. It outlines how quarries inspectors should approach applying and enforcing legal requirements relating to quarry face design and preventing falls of people or materials from quarry faces.


There is potential for a major incident, such as the collapse of a quarry face or a person or vehicle falling if the quarry face design and stability are inadequate, or if the measures in place to prevent such falls are insufficient.

This guidance covers checking the:

It also outlines the enforcement expectations if these checks identify significant shortcomings.


Inspectors should check:

Where there are significant shortcomings in complying with the above then enforcement action should be taken to secure compliance (see Appendix 2). 


The Quarries Regulations 1999 (QR) require quarry tips and excavations to be designed, constructed, operated and maintained so that they are safe and that instability or movement likely to give rise to a risk to the health and safety of any person (whether working in the quarry or not) is avoided (QR reg 30),.  The quarry design should incorporate the quarry layout, extraction methods and operating procedures.  This should include the required procedures to ensure the safety of all people within or around the site, including the methods that will be used to stabilise slopes, protect against rockfall, and to prevent the risk of falls of persons.  In addition, quarry faces that form a significant hazard, as defined in the Regulations, are required to have a detailed 'geotechnical assessment' (QR reg 32 and ACOP L18).

The safety of excavated slopes is a requirement throughout the life of the quarry, and extends, so far as is reasonably practicable, to leaving the quarry faces in a safe condition when the quarry closes or ceases work (QR reg 6(4)).  Failure to do so can lead to ground movements that can have an impact on the health and safety of those within and outside the quarry.

Regulation 9 of QR requires quarry operators to ensure that no-one undertakes any work at the quarry unless they are competent or they carry out work under the supervision of someone else who is competent to do both the work and provide the necessary training. (See OG on Competence of those working in the Quarry Industry for more information).

The Work at Height Regulations 2005 (WAH) are also relevant to safe quarry design and operation, and provide legal requirements to prevent the risk of falls of persons, vehicles and materials being thrown or tipped (WAH reg 10(3)) from quarry faces.  This is relevant to various unsafe quarry operating practices such as end tipping. Regulation 10(4) on storage of materials is relevant to the stability of stockpiles.  Regulation 11 on Danger Areas is also relevant.


No special visits or other organisational requirements are involved.

Further References


Construction Division Operations 5 – National Quarries Inspection Team

Appendix 1: Typical quarry face design

The following indicates the minimum expected from a competent quarry design.  It includes elements relevant to both rock quarries and sand and gravel type quarries:

Appendix 2: Enforcement

Compliance with the provisions outlined in Appendix 1 is classed as "Compliance and administrative arrangements" under the Enforcement Management Model (EMM table 4).

Absence of, or inadequate, compliance with a defined standard (EMM table 3) (eg no or inadequate quarry face design) gives an initial expectation of an Improvement or Prohibition Notice.  Unless local factors affect this expectation, a notice appropriate to the breach should be issued.

Enforcement should be considered where:

Inspectors should consider prosecution for repeated failure of compliance.

Updated 2020-12-16