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Two quarry fatalities have prompted NZ unions to lobby for tougher health and safety reforms.
Two quarry fatalities have prompted NZ unions to lobby for tougher health and safety reforms.

Quarry deaths spark calls for reform

New Zealand unions have called for tougher, more robust safety legislation reforms after the deaths of two quarry workers.

The fatalities, which occurred within less than a month of each other, led the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) to heavily criticise the New Zealand Government for excluding rigorous workplace inspection practices in quarries from revised health and safety legislation.

The first death reportedly occurred on 19 March when 43-year-old Scott Baldwin was killed in a machinery accident. He had been working at a lime quarry in South Timaru, New Zealand for Gordons Valley Lime Company at the time. A second quarry worker, which media sources identified as 24-year-old Tane Hill-Ormsby, was said to have died on 16 April while operating a 45-tonne rock cutter that rolled over at Oropi Quarry in Tauranga.

CTU general counsel Jeff Sissons said the New Zealand Government had “[bowed] to industry pressure [and] let these workers down”.

“Health and safety laws in mining were strengthened in 2013 responding to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the tragedy at Pike River Mine. But after lobbying from industry and assurances that quarries were safer than mines, the government excluded quarries from the protections of the new law,” he stated. An explosion at the Pike River Mine killed 29 workers in November 2010.

“One of the most important exclusions was industry health and safety representatives,” Sissons continued. “These representatives go from workplace to workplace checking on systems and providing advice on best practice. Perhaps an industry health and safety representative might have provided advice that saved these workers’ lives.

“The [New Zealand] Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment said that instead of legislating, they intended to ‘work with the quarry industry to develop a set of quarry specific guidelines, with a longer term view to developing quarry specific regulations’. These guidelines are still in draft and the regulations nowhere on the horizon.”

Sissons also called on the New Zealand Government to “fix” the situation by including quarries in the Health and Safety Reform Bill that is currently before Parliament. “Specific regulations for quarries should be urgently made. These would be big steps towards stopping further deaths or injuries,” he said.

Industry response

Roger Parton, the chief executive of New Zealand’s Aggregate and Quarry Association (AQA), responded to Sissons’ comments in an interview with New Zealand news and information website He stated that the CTU’s implication that the quarrying industry had lobbied the government not to be included in legislation was untrue.

“That is not at all the case,” he said. “We actually want to be in there. It is the great machine that is government that is slowing down the process.”

Parton added that the AQA was still in the process of developing a code of compliance with WorkSafe New Zealand, and that both the association and the broader industry were “keen” to implement it.

The IQA is also assisting its New Zealand counterpart, the Institute of Quarrying New Zealand, in developing training to satisfy legislation introduced after the Pike River Mine disaster that requires quarry managers to have a certificate for either A or B grade competencies by December 2015.

“The quarry industry in New Zealand has lots of small quarries, so up to 700 people will need somewhere near five days training each and to receive approval from the government-selected board of examiners to continue operation,” IQA president John Stanton explained in his regular monthly editorial for Quarry. “Failure could mean the shutdown of individual sites.”

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Monday, 26 August, 2019 3:41pm
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