Saturday, 26 July 2014

Another tragic drowning in a quarry

It’s the same every year - people, often children and teenagers, drown in disused and active quarries all over the UK. Every year there are safety campaigns. Every year there are deaths.

Mineral companies are proud of their contribution to the economy and the built environment. Increasingly, they ‘greenwash’ their activities by promoting their contribution to the natural environment too. But drownings at quarries damage the industry's image, arguably more than anything else.

The industry can blame the victims for not reading or heeding the warning signs, for not having more common sense. But more often than not, the victims are just children looking for an adventure, looking to have a good time with friends in the sun.

The industry has to do more. It has left a legacy of deep, cold, water-filled pits littering the country - a trail of potential danger.

The industry must do more than just safety campaigns - hoping the message will get out, hoping it will register with teenagers wanting to go tombstoning. The industry - most of which, let’s remember, are multinational multibillion-pound corporations - must make their sites and ex-sites safe and secure - and, until then, with security guards and CCTV if need be; a few warning signs and a couple of strands of barbed wire is not enough. Look how a quarry in Northern Ireland can be protected - when it wants to keep out fracking protesters: "by metal fences and razor wire, and is guarded by a private security company". 

The costs of such measures are insignificant - compared with the loss of a 16 year old at the beginning of his life. After Thursday’s tragedy:
One villager... said children had been climbing over the fence and getting into the water "for ages" and it was "an accident waiting to happen".
In 1984, two young brothers drowned in another former quarry in the village.