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Learning from Albury Quarry blasting incident

Albury Quarry blasting incident

An investigation report and incident animation video has been released following a dangerous blasting incident that occurred at Albury Quarry, Ettamogah NSW in April 2018.

blasting incident
Flyrock on driver’s seat of shotfirer’s utility

The incident occurred on 10 April 2018, twelve people were at risk of being struck by flyrock during an overburden blast conducted at Albury Quarry. Those at risk included members of the public, workers and a shotfirer who were at the firing location at the time of blasting. The members of the public included the partner and three friends of the quarry manager and a visiting truck driver.

At the time of the blast, four people were about 275 metres from the loaded shot that was to be fired (the blast area). The other people, including the shotfirer, were about 320 metres from the blast area.

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Multiple rocks were launched into the air by the blast. Most of those present were forced to take evasive action to avoid being struck.

Three light vehicles and two excavators in the immediate vicinity of these people were struck by flyrock. A piece of rock measuring approximately 400 x 200 x 200 millimetres struck the shotfirer’s utility, knocked the vehicle’s raised bonnet off its mounts, smashed
through the front windscreen and landed on the driver’s seat.

After the incident, those present were asked to delete video footage of the blast. The incident was not reported to the NSW Resources Regulator until 7 September 2018. The circumstances of the incident, including the number of people present and the amount of flyrock produced, were not made known to the Regulator until video footage of the incident was received in November 2018.

The investigation identified significant deficiencies in the procedures and controls of the mine operator and shotfirer, including the following:

  • There was inadequate supervision of the blast:
    • The quarry manager did not possess the competence to ensure effective controls were implemented.
    • The shotfirer failed to use the judgement necessary to take control of the scene before firing the blast.
    • The mine operator did not sufficiently monitor activity at the quarry.
  • Multiple procedural safety standards were not followed, including:
    • Exclusion zones were not established.
    • Non-essential personnel were present at the firing location.
    • Those present at the firing location were too close to the blast area.
    • Sentries and blast guards were not assigned.
  • There was a failure to observe technical safety standards, including:
    • Inadequate blast design, including insufficient design burden.
    • The correct type of explosive was not used in all blast holes.
    • The firing location should have been located behind the blast area.
  • Those present during blasting were not given enough information and training.

The Regulator recommended mine operators and shotfirers must:

  • ensure that a competent person determines exclusion zone boundaries using a comprehensive risk assessment process, having regard to the nature of the activity and environment
  • review their blasting procedures to ensure that exclusion zone requirements are clearly prescribed and communicated to all workers
  • ensure workers receive appropriate instruction and training about the risks associated with blasting
  • ensure that blasting operations are adequately supervised by persons who have appropriate qualifications and experience
  • ensure that only essential personnel are present at the firing location during blasting
  • ensure safety observations and audit processes are undertaken on a regular basis by independent parties who are unlikely to be influenced by the normalisation of unsafe work practices
  • ensure that records of the actual stemming and explosive amounts are maintained, reviewed and appropriately considered as part of the pre and post blast review process
  • ensure that appropriate information and equipment is available to accurately determine the distances between blast areas and exclusion zone perimeters.

The original document is available on the NSW Resources Regulator’s site

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AMSJ April 2022