Managers' guide to safe coal cleaning and Control of
pedestrians at opencast coal sites
CHAN 3 - SEPTEMBER 1997
Quarries Sheet No 1
HSE information sheet
This information sheet has been drawn up by a working party
from HSE's Quarries National Interest Group, the Federation
of Civil Engineering Contractors and British Coal Opencast.
The cleaning of coal by workers using hand shovels during
coaling operations is recognised as a particularly dangerous
activity when it takes place within the swing radius of the face
This guidance is intended to help you as a manager to assess
the hazards/risks present in coal cleaning and to protect the
health and safety of coal cleaners and other pedestrians involved
in or affected by the operation.
The aim of an assessment is to help you identify all the
reasonably practicable steps which need to be taken to ensure the
health and safety of coal cleaners and other pedestrians, such as
coal inspectors and vehicle drivers, who may be in the immediate
The responsibility for making an assessment of the risks
during coal cleaning is that of the appointed quarry manager. It
needs to cover everyone involved whether or not they are directly
employed by the contractor (statutory owner).
Risk assessment involves you making an operational decision on
whether the coal seam is contaminated enough for coal cleaners to
be used. If you decide that you have to use cleaners, then a
series of measures can be taken to remove or minimise the danger.
For example, ask yourself:
- what is the minimum number of cleaners I can use?
- what is the minimum time needed for the job?
Regular review of the decisions taken as a result of these
questions will enable you to react as necessary to changing
circumstances in terms of geological conditions and contamination
Identify the hazards
When you have assessed how many coal cleaners you need and for
how long they will be needed on the job, think about the
Falls of ground from high walls and end
Think about the people who may be working in positions
where they are vulnerable to rock falls. Have the faces and
the tops of the face been thoroughly inspected for loose or
unstable rock? Do you need to post a look-out to give warning
of developing instability?
Collapse of old mine workings
Try to establish the location of old mine workings using
the mine plans. If these are not available, try to obtain the
information from local sources. If the position of old
workings is uncertain, you can advise plant operators of the
possibility of unstable floor conditions developing and the
need to proceed with caution.
Falls from the top of excavations
Coal cleaners and others involved in coaling are sometimes
required to work or travel close to the edge of the
excavation. You will need to consider what type of protection
is necessary, such as a harness, physical barrier and/or edge
Working within the swing radius of the excavator
It is extremely dangerous for anyone to work within the
swing radius of the excavator bucket because of the risk of
pedestrians being struck by:
- the excavator bucket or body;
- spillage from the bucket;
- a coal haulage vehicle;
- spillage from a vehicle.
The cleaning work on this area of the coal seam can
generally be completed when the excavator is stationary with
its bucket on the ground. The coal cleaner can then work
within clear sight of the excavator driver. If it is not
reasonably practicable to follow this course, your aim will
be to minimise the risks as much as possible.
Slope failure of the low wall
This would involve maintaining an adequate batter and
checking for tension cracks on top.
Falls of coal from thick seams
Falls of coal may be inevitable in the digging process, so
try to anticipate where they will occur.
Other activities taking place in close
These could include, for example, drag-line operations,
overburden loading and hauling and road wetting.
Look at, for example, weather conditions, ground
conditions and visibility.
Then decide upon the appropriate measures to take.
Minimise the risks
- Limit the operation to a single coal cleaner and the time
spent in the danger area to an absolute minimum. Maintain
effective supervision and control over other pedestrians who
may be in the area.
- The coal cleaner and the excavator driver can cooperate by
remaining within sight of each other and so it is a distinct
advantage for all pedestrians to wear high visibility clothing.
Providing the driver and coal cleaner/other pedestrians remain
within sight of each other, the excavator driver can easily
prevent either the bucket or the boom of his machine passing
- A clear system of communication by visual or audible
signals between the coal cleaner and the excavator driver is
essential in ensuring that they are in no doubt of each
- Coal lorries are frequently in the vicinity when coal
cleaning and loading is taking place. Their presence in numbers
beyond the vehicle being loaded is a distraction to the
excavator driver and coal cleaner and may prevent them keeping
each other in sight. A parking area where lorries can wait
until it is safe to move into position and a clearly marked
route for them to follow can be a solution to this problem.
Specific training for drivers and coal cleaners who are
required to work in confined areas with moving plant will also
help to make the activity safe. General training for all
pedestrians who may work in the vicinity is also helpful.
- Record your findings and review your assessment from time
to time. If circumstances have changed, you should be prepared
to revise it.
You will find it helpful to ask yourself whether you have done
all the things which the law requires you to. For example, the
Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires that a safe
system of work is provided. Other legislation which you will find
helpful is listed in the Further information
When you are satisfied with the regulatory position, ask
yourself if there are any generally accepted industry standards
which can help you plan the work. But do not stop there. Use your
skill and experience to decide on extra precautions whenever the
There may be occasions when you get stuck with a problem.
There is no need to suffer it or take a chance - your local
inspectors will help you. Their phone numbers are in the phone
book under Health and Safety Executive. There is also a wide
selection of guidance books and leaflets produced by HSE, some of
which are listed in the Further information section.
Essentials of health and safety at work HSE Books
1994 ISBN 0 7176 0716 X
Management of health and safety at work. Management of
Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1992: Approved Code of
Practice L21 HSE Books 1992 ISBN 0 7176 0412 8
Work equipment. Provision and Use of Work Equipment
Regulations 1992. Guidance on Regulations L22 HSE Books 1992
ISBN 0 7176 0414 4
Personal protective equipment at work. Personal Protective
Equipment at Work Regulations 1992: Guidance on Regulations
L25 HSE Books 1992 ISBN 0 7176 0415 2
Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 SI
1992/3073 HMSO 1992 ISBN 0 11 025719 7
Getting to grips with manual handling: a short guide for
employers IND(G) 143(L) HSE Books 1993 (free)
Controlling the risks in the workplace IND(G) 163(L) HSE Books
HSE priced and free publications are available by mail order
from: HSE Books, TSO Customer Services, PO Box 29, Norwich, NR3 1GN, Tel: +44 (0)333 202 5070
Further copies of this information sheet may be obtained from
the Quarries National Interest Group, HSE, Inter City House,
Mitchell Lane, Victoria Street, Bristol BS1 6AN Tel: 0117 929
This leaflet contains notes on good practice which are not
compulsory but which you may find helpful in considering what to
This publication may be freely reproduced, except for
advertising, endorsement or commercial purposes. The information
is current at 9/94. Please acknowledge the source as HSE.
Printed and published by HSE 9/94 NIS/01/01 C35
Further information is contained in the
3-Chloropropene Risk Assessment Document EH72/4, ISBN 0 7176 1353
4 and the next issue of EH64 (available from HSE Books)
Further advice can be obtained from HSE offices (see under
Health and Safety Executive in the telephone directory). For
write to HSE's Information Centre, Broad Lane, Sheffield S3