• Robert Spicer

Somerset quarry explosion: health and safety prosecutions

Quarry explosion: £30,000 fine

Health and Safety Executive v WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd (2015) Barnstaple magistrates’ court, February 27

WCD Sleeman and Sons Ltd has been fined following an explosion at a quarry in Somerset.

Significant points of the case

• In February 2012 an explosion at a quarry near Shepton Mallet in Somerset caused rocks weighing up to 15 kilos to fly outside a danger zone towards employees and a public road.

• Workers acting as sentries outside the danger zone were aware of rocks flying above their heads and landing around them. The rocks also landed on the processing plant of the quarry on the other side of the public road.

• The blast had not been properly planned. Too much explosive had been used in an area where the ground was already broken. Measures put in place to reduce risks were inadequate.

The company was fined £30,000 plus £20,000 costs for a breach of section 3, HSW Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of non-employees. It had previously been prosecuted and fined for a similar offence.

A spokesperson for the HSE is reported to have commented after the case that blasting operations at quarries are potentially very dangerous. The risks must be rigorously controlled by good explosives engineering practice and in accordance with legal requirements. Quarrying is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. 3,250 injuries which included 27 fatalities were reported to the HSE since 2000.

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