WorkSafe New Zealand’s investigation related to the death of 56-year-old Murray Taylor, the late owner of Waikari-based limestone quarrying business Heathstock Haulage.
As previously reported by Quarry, Taylor was killed in June 2015 when more than 1000 tonnes of rock fell from a quarry wall, engulfing his 65-tonne excavator.
The WorkSafe New Zealand investigation found he had been operating the excavator directly under the face of the wall, which had been “undermined and was unstable” as a result of his excavation work. It was said the excavator’s cab had been crushed instantly in the collapse.
“Quarry work is inherently risky unless it is done correctly,” Keith Stewart, WorkSafe New Zealand’s chief inspector of investigations, stated. “In this case, no geotechnical assessment had been carried out to determine the nature of the rock wall. That would have helped identify the safest way to tackle excavation work.”
Stewart indicated Taylor had breached the New Zealand Health and Safety in Employment Act by failing to put procedures in place to ensure staff were adequately trained, monitored and supervised. It was also determined early on in the investigation that Taylor did not have the certificate of competence legally required of him as a quarry owner.
“Merely holding a certificate might not have prevented this incident – but to obtain one [Taylor] would have had to prove he had the required knowledge and skills which could have been applied to this work,” Stewart said.
WorkSafe New Zealand decided, however, that prosecution was “not in the public interest” as Taylor had been the sole director in charge of quarry work at Heathstock Haulage.
“Despite the conclusion that the health and safety law was breached, there would be nothing to be gained from laying charges against Mr Taylor’s company,” Stewart explained.
“Any workplace death is a tragedy for family, friends and colleagues but hopefully the publicity surrounding Mr Taylor’s death will prompt quarry operators to check that their [certificates of competence] are current and their practices are safe.”
Last year, Taylor’s death, along with those of two other quarry workers, sparked calls for stronger health and safety legislation in the extractive industries. WorkSafe New Zealand and the National Health and Safety Council for the Mining and Quarry Industry (MinEx) are currently collaborating to identify all unregistered quarries in New Zealand to ensure operators are appropriately qualified and educated on the risks associated with the industry.
Quarry death intensifies calls for stronger regulation
Safety council on hunt for small, unregistered quarries
NZ launches guidelines in response to fatalities
Quarry deaths spark calls for reform