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Botched quarry blast sent rocks raining onto cars

29 Jul 13 Hanson Quarry Products and one of its contractors must pay out more than £70,000 after quarry blast went wrong and sent rocks flying 200m into the air, landing on cars on a nearby road.

"Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"
"Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?"

The falling blast debris landed well outside of designated danger zone during the incident at Brayford Quarry in Brayford on 24 February 2011, and narrowly avoided striking a workman who had halted traffic while the blasting took place.

Frome-based WCD Sleeman & Sons Ltd, who organised the blast, and quarry operator Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd were both prosecuted last week after an investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious control failings.

Barnstaple Magistrates' Court heard that two cars, stationary at the time on a nearby public road, were hit by flying rock, which dented the bonnet of one and a smashed the windscreen of the other.

HSE inspectors discovered an 8.5kg piece of rock on the other side of the road. Six other smaller pieces of rock were also recovered from the road.

A workman acting as a sentry on the road to manage traffic during the blasting heard the rocks coming through the trees. Held his stop-go board over his head and scrambled for cover next to a large van. The driver of the van saw pieces of rock pass over the workman.

WCD Sleeman & Sons Ltd, of Valley View, Vallis Park, Frome, Somerset, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £17,000 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

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Hanson Quarry Products Europe Ltd of Castle Hill, Maidenhead, Berkshire, was fined £20,000 with £14,000 costs after pleading guilty to single a breach of the Quarries Regulations 1999.

HSE inspector of quarries Mike Tetley said after the hearing: "This was a very serious incident that could easily have led to death or serious injury.

"Blasting operations at quarries are inherently high risk, and these risks must be rigorously controlled by good explosives engineering practice and in accordance with legal requirements.

"Where contractors are involved it is important that appropriate levels of communication and co-operation are in place. It is totally unacceptable for both members of the public and employees to be put at serious risk of being hit by rocks, as happened here in an entirely preventable incident.

"I hope this case sends a clear message to the industry that proper planning and control is required at all times."

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