QUARRIERS and aggregate producers are set to hit targets for the reduction of accident rates in rock pits.
The sector had pledged to halve the number of accidents in quarries by the end of March 2005 and is well on the way to achieving its aim, according to the Quarry Products Association.
Speaking at the QPA's health and safety best practice awards event in London last week, chief executive Simon Van der Byl claimed the sector would meet the 50 per cent reduction under the Health and Safety Commission's Hard Target scheme, thanks to a combined effort from the sector.
He said: 'We are proud to be the first sector to voluntarily sign up to the scheme and, with the buy-in achieved at all levels of the industry, believe we are on target to meet that reduction.'
When the sector signed up to the scheme in 2000 the average yearly accident rate, taken from the decade 1990 to 2000, stood at 655 - with major accidents totalling between 100 and 200.The number of fatalities was between five and 10 a year.
Those figures have now been slashed and the industry is set to hit its 320 accidents-a-year target.
Bob Blackman, construction secretary at the Transport and General Workers Union, welcomed the news.
He said: 'The industry is improving the health of its workers and protecting them by creating a safer working environment.'
And the Health and Safety Executive called for the industry to continue the strides taken to slash accident rates.
Head of HSE's manufacturing sector James Barrett said: 'I sense a step change in the commitment of the industry to take it down the league table of incident rates and fatality rates. In 10 years' time I would like to see quarries significant by their absence from the tables.'
The British Safety Council also urged quarriers to continue this work.
Director general David Ballard said: 'Although the sector is doing very well it has to continue and although it is a hard slog the industry has to keep at it.'
nTarmac scooped the overall award for its high performance in health and safety over the year and was presented with the John Crabbe Memorial Trophy.
It won in three categories, including innovation and behavioural safety.
Other winners at the best practice awards included Hanson Aggregates for work at its Tam's Loop Quarry in Lanarkshire.