Quarry jobs at risk over OHS requirements

Supervisors in New Zealand now have less than six months to renew their A or B Grade Certificates of Competence (CoC) in line with workplace regulations introduced in December 2014 that require holders to pass up to four new units by next year.

The Aggregate and Quarry Association (AQA), Institute of Quarrying New Zealand (IQNZ), Mining/Extractive Health and Safety Council (MinEx) and Civil Contractors New Zealand say without a current CoC, those who have not met the new requirements risk losing their jobs.

The issue was high on the agenda at the Quarry NZ conference in Blenheim, held from 13 to 15 July.

“Either you pass the new competencies or come Christmas you will no longer be a CoC holder and not able to manage a site,” AQA chair Brian Roche said.

He added bigger suppliers, responsible for around 85 per cent of aggregate production in the country, were generally having fewer issues than smaller operators.

The supply of aggregates, particularly from smaller producers, could be disrupted because of a lack of available, trained replacements should large numbers of site managers have to stand down on 31 December, IQNZ board chairman Les Ward said.

“We don’t have a surplus of trained A and B Grade CoC holders. We could see some smaller quarries, in particular, closed as a result,” he commented.

As previously reported by Quarry, the deaths of several quarry workers in New Zealand in recent years have intensified calls for stricter safety regulations.

A WorkSafe investigation into the death of Murray Taylor, who was killed at the Waikari-based limestone quarry business he owned in June 2015, highlighted the fact he did not have the CoC legally required of him.

WorkSafe New Zealand and MinEx have been working together to identify all unregistered quarries in New Zealand to ensure operators are appropriately qualified and educated on the risks associated with the industry.

Lack of training

Concerns were raised over the quality and availability of CoC training last month at a WorkSafe NZ workshop in Nelson.

Around 40 per cent of those currently sitting B Grade exams, required to manage a smaller quarry or opencast mine, are failing the final oral test, according to the industry groups.

WorkSafe extractives chief inspector Mark Pizey told the Nelson meeting that WorkSafe has 602 quarry and mine notified site managers but knows of around 1600 quarry sites across New Zealand.

MinEx chair Chris Baker said there had been some “teething issues” with the renewal process.

“We had a one year extension this year but WorkSafe has made clear there will be no further extension,” he said. “Frankly we are not seeking one either. People have to get up to speed on the new health and safety competencies.”

In related news, the Institute of Quarrying Australia (IQA) launched a comprehensive web-based Professional Development Program (PDP) for New Zealand at the Quarry NZ conference.

IQA general manager Paul Sutton, who gave a presentation on Friday, 15 July, said: “This program is being complemented by a suite of face-to-face PDPs customised for the industry in New Zealand.”

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