Irresponsible operators 'tarnishing' New Zealand quarry industry's reputation

Emergency services congregate at an illegal quarry operated by Murray Taylor, 56, who was killed in a landslide at the ...
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Emergency services congregate at an illegal quarry operated by Murray Taylor, 56, who was killed in a landslide at the site in 2015.

Up to 800 quarries could be operating in New Zealand without authorities knowing about them. 

Four quarry workers were killed on the job in 2015. Two deaths were at quarries WorkSafe New Zealand had no formal knowledge of. 

The government health and safety regulator believes there could be up to 1200 quarry sites around New Zealand, but it has received lawful notification of only 402.

The industry's health and safety council, MinEx, believes more quarry workers will die in 2016 if operations stay unregistered. 

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WorkSafe extractives chief inspector Tony Forster said unregistered quarries were "tarnishing" the good reputation of legitimate quarrying businesses through their "irresponsible" actions.

Quarry operators had a legal responsibility to appoint a manager and notify the agency, he said. 

"It is not the site itself that has to be notified – it is the activity of quarrying and the appointment of a manager is required to be notified."

No accurate count of quarries in New Zealand existed, but that was something Worksafe was trying to change.

The agency had started to map any sites that appeared to be quarry or mining operations. The result would be the "most accurate inventory ever of operating quarries in New Zealand", WorkSafe said. 

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"As a result of this activity, Worksafe currently believes there could be as many as 1200 sites around the country which may meet the legal definition of a quarry or alluvial mine," Forster said, adding that did not mean all 1200 sites were in operation.

Quarry registration had tripled since the project started, but operators that remained unregistered were "of concern", Forster said.

"They are not only absenting themselves from lawful oversight by the regulator, but also isolating workers from sources of advice, training, and continuing professional development essential to keep themselves legal, healthy and safe."

In December, MinEx said about 500 quarries were registered in New Zealand, but it believed twice that could be operating.

It asked the public to help find quarries that were off the radar as they posed "some of the highest health and safety risks to industry workers".

It expected more workers would die in 2016 if operations were not registered.

MinEx chief executive Les McCracken said a "sea of change" was required for the industry.

"Some unregistered operators may be operating perfectly safely. Others are operating in a way that is just plain reckless and a tragedy is quite likely to follow."

Worksafe said it received 36 notifications of quarry operations in December, and had received 10 so far this month. 

WorkSafe statistics showed the extractives industry accounted for the second highest number of workplace deaths by industrybetween 2010 and 2015.

With 35 deaths since 2010, the industry was second only to the agricultural sector, which recorded 112 workplace deaths over the five-year period.

The 2010 Pike River Mine disaster accounted for 29 deaths in the extractives industry.

QUARRY INDUSTRY'S HORROR YEAR

March 2015: Scott Baldwin, 43, died while operating heavy machinery at the Gordons Valley Lime Company near Waimate in South Canterbury.

April 2015: Tauranga man Tane Hill-Ormsby, 24, was crushed by a 45-tonne rock cutter at a Oropi quarry.

June 2015: Quarry boss Murray Taylor, 56, was buried by rock in his excavator at the Heathstock Haulage limeworks in Waikari.

November 2015: Mario Lelina, 30, died while working in the workshop area of a Southland goldmine.

 - Stuff

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