When three quarry workers were killed in the space of three months between April and June this year in New Zealand, there were calls from numerous parties for the NZ quarrying industry to be incorporated into mining health and safety regulations introduced by the NZ Government after the Pike River mine explosion in 2010.
Although the NZ Government is slowly responding to those pleas, one of the parties that has called for the incorporation – the National Health and Safety Council for the Mining and Quarrying Industry (MinEx) – has praised WorkSafe NZ for the release of Good Practice Guidelines for quarrying, open cast and alluvial mining.
The Good Practice Guidelines provide the first WorkSafe health and safety document specifically for the NZ quarrying and surface mining sector and pre-empt the new NZ Health and Safety at Work Act that takes effect from next April.
MinEx chairman Chris Baker declared that if quarries and surface mines faithfully followed the new guidelines, then further industry fatalities could be avoided.
“We welcome these guidelines,” Baker said. “MinEx has worked with WorkSafe to deliver a practical document for both those who work in the industry and who provide health and safety training.”
Baker added MinEx’s challenge now was to disseminate the guidelines to all the smaller operators and engage them in the practical and effective safety practices advocated by the guidelines.
An industry team comprising representatives from large and small operations in the mining and quarrying sectors reviewed the Good Practice Guidelines. MinEx’s CEO Les McCracken said this ensured the best technical and operational knowledge was inputted into the guidelines.
“Everybody should be looking at their systems against the guidelines,” McCracken explained. “Whatever they have in place needs to be at least as good as the guidelines. This will be an invaluable resource for those who operate quarries and opencast and alluvial mines. It provides guidance through text, photos and graphics on all aspects of operating safely.”
McCracken also praised a pocket guide alternative to the full 262-page Guidelines. “This gives the sort of easy summary that workers and supervisors can use and which newcomers to the industry can pick up,” he said.
McCracken said he would draw on the fuller Guidelines when the next round of health and safety forums for the quarrying and surface mining sector resume in Palmerston North in January.