Managers' guide to safe coal cleaning and Control of pedestrians at opencast coal sites



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 excavator.

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 area.

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:

  1. what is the minimum number of cleaners I can use?
  2. 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 levels.

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 following hazards:

  1. Falls of ground from high walls and end walls

    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?

  2. 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.

  3. 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 identification.

  4. Working within the swing radius of the excavator bucket

    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:

    1. the excavator bucket or body;
    2. spillage from the bucket;
    3. a coal haulage vehicle;
    4. 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.

  5. Slope failure of the low wall

    This would involve maintaining an adequate batter and checking for tension cracks on top.

  6. Falls of coal from thick seams

    Falls of coal may be inevitable in the digging process, so try to anticipate where they will occur.

  7. Other activities taking place in close proximity

    These could include, for example, drag-line operations, overburden loading and hauling and road wetting.

  8. Other elements

    Look at, for example, weather conditions, ground conditions and visibility.

Then decide upon the appropriate measures to take.

Minimise the risks

  1. 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.
  2. 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 over them.
  3. 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 other's intentions.
  4. 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.
  5. Record your findings and review your assessment from time to time. If circumstances have changed, you should be prepared to revise it.

The law

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 section.

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 need arises.

Getting advice

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.

Further information

  • 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 (free)
  • 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 0681

This leaflet contains notes on good practice which are not compulsory but which you may find helpful in considering what to do.

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 help:

Further advice can be obtained from HSE offices (see under Health and Safety Executive in the telephone directory). For other enquiries write to HSE's Information Centre, Broad Lane, Sheffield S3 7HQ.

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