The Quarries Regulations 1999 are different both from more general health and safety regulations and also from the previous Mines and Quarries Act. No one can work in a quarry unless they are competent (or they are under the supervision of a competent person), using a definition based on knowledge, experience, training and other qualities related to the job they are to do. Competence should not be confused with academic qualifications or experience. There are no grandfather rights.
The Quarry Regulations also require the operator to demonstrate this competence. The regulations apply not only to the quarry site but also to anyone in the management structure for that site. Thus the managing director has to be competent, and be able to demonstrate there are competent, to undertake their duties so far as the quarry is concerned, as set out in the quarry health and safety document. The same applies to geologists, personnel managers, surveyors, engineers, area managers, etc including those who may be contractors.
How can you demonstrate competence?
The regulations recognise three sorts of competence. Formal professional qualifications are required for some specialist activities, for example geotechnical engineers must be either Chartered Engineers or Chartered Geologists with three years relevant experience. For others, it is suggested that competence is measured against national S/NVQ standards, in the relevant practical and/or managerial skills or through the Engineering Council scheme for Engineering Technician, Incorporated Engineer and Chartered Engineer.
HSE's operational policy position is that by obtaining S/NVQ's the workforce are able to show that they have reached a common understanding of their duties under the regulations. More importantly this will have a dramatic effect on health and safety, in that the standards in the workplace will be improved and the accident rate reduced. The references to S/NVQs in L118, Health and Safety at Quarries, have the status of guidance rather than law or ACOP. A quarry operator could decide not to adopt S/NVQs but to implement some other means of achieving and demonstrating a competent workforce. This would however need to be as effective as the nationally recognised and industry-agreed S/NVQ system.
Why were S/NVQ standards chosen?
The advantage of nationally recognised standards such as the S/NVQ is that in obtaining a vocational qualification, each person has had their knowledge and experience checked systematically in their working environment, with any omissions identified and remedial actions taken. For the individual, their qualification is transferable between sites or employers, as the standard of achievement reached is clear. It can be built upon, as new skills are required for career development.
S/NVQ's do not discriminate by educational past, for example a degree is not necessary as a prerequisite to an NVQ Level 4 or 5. Those who achieve Level 4 or 5 are eligible to be members of the Institute of Quarrying, and similarly the qualification counts towards membership of the Engineering Council.
What should I be doing to satisfy HSE?
The regulations require everyone in the quarry and in the management structure to be competent before work starts. The operator and workforce have to be able to demonstrate this competence.
Inspectors visiting quarries for inspections or investigations may ask what steps companies are taking to demonstrate the competence of the workforce, including managers, and what records they are keeping of continuing professional development (CPD, ie maintaining skills once achieved). DAPS, foundation degrees, mining engineering or quarrying degrees, MSc conversion degrees etc all provide good underpinning knowledge, and keeping records such as those suggested by the Institute of Quarrying and other professional bodies' CPD schemes is a demonstration of commitment to the development and maintenance of competence.
HSE is actively encouraging quarry operators to be able to demonstrate the competence of their workforce using the recognised national framework, and to develop and maintain their skills through CPD.