Scandinavian Stone, Vånga quarry, Kristianstad, February 2022:
The windscreen was hit by a boulder of 10 tons...
Jörgen Stjernkvist often clears dynamite chutes and has a good overview of the situation. But everyone can be unlucky–and on one ordinary Monday at work, he was. A large block of granite unexpectedly came loose from the mountain and fell to the ground in different pieces. His cabin was rammed by a 10-tonne rock.
– I didn’t have time to think until it was over, the only thing in my head afterwards was joy that I had made it,’ he said.
Jörgen has been a machine operator since 1978, a young boy following in his father’s footsteps. He’s never regretted his choice of profession – it’s been an exciting industry to work in and he’s driven a variety of machines over the years. Safety has, of course, evolved a lot along the way and at Scandinavian Stone they are extra safety conscious. Everyone knows what can happen if an accident occurs, and that the difference between life and death can depend on the preventive measures taken.
– I’ve worked hard all my life and have been spared accidents. Sure, I’ve been hit by rocks and broken glass, but nothing serious has happened. Now I only have a year and a half to go before I retire. I’m looking forward to it, I’ll be doing the house and garden, doing the things I enjoy. After what’s happened, I’m even more grateful for the little things in life. The situation could have been very different, I realise that when I see the picture with the stone block and the machine. I was actually sitting in it, with just a front screen in between.
– I was cleaning out the dynamite chutes – not an unusual task for me – but this particular boulder had a long crack in it that shot inwards and upwards and couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. While I was working, the block came loose incredibly fast. One second the boulder was attached to the rock wall, the next, it smashed into my front window. I didn’t even have time to understand what was going on.
You’ve got Class 3 protection, which includes Hammerglass RABS solution with full cab protection. What are your feelings about that now?
– The stone had a pointed front, making it even more dangerous. The point itself had pushed into the front screen a little bit, but then stopped. Without Hammerglass RABS, I think the point would have got through to me.
What did your family say when you got home that day?
– I downplayed the incident, I didn’t want them to be scared unnecessarily. All’s well that ends well, after all, and the way I see it, I made it because Scandinavian Stone doesn’t rely on luck. The company is investing in the right kind of safety.
"Hammerglass’ reliability made the difference for me."
Sven Jönsson is the Environment and Health & Safety Manager at Scandinavian Stone and Jörgen’s accident confirmed that he’d chosen the right safety solution suitable for the environment in which the machine works.
– Safety always comes first. Our goal is to find and use the best technology and method adapted to our needs at each workplace.
Why did you choose Hammerglass?
– Since no one could guarantee that their product ‘provides enough protection’, and neither authorities nor manufacturers have been able to help us here, I did my own analysis starting from the material selection and basic design based on the knowledge I have about polymeric materials and glass. The impact resistance of polycarbonate is well-known so that was what settled it for me.
What are your thoughts on Hammerglass now – after Jörgens accident?
– We are of course very grateful that the screen held up! As a result, we have started our own review of our risk analysis and are looking at what measures we can take to strengthen protection, particularly in the event of a massive collapse directly on the cab.
"Today’s standards don’t match all the risks that protective glazing can be exposed to –that’s why we’re setting higher standards for our products"
Malin Påhlsson is a designer and regulations manager at Hammerglass, and she was on site in Vånga early on to see for herself how the RABS frame looked after the accident.
– This was about extreme forces in a risky working environment, she notes.
The Swedish Work Environment Administration requires operators of vehicles in quarry environments to be protected against falling rock. It’s up to the employer to carry out a broad risk analysis which takes into account the environment in which the machine is working and the type of work being carried out. The lowest possible accident scenario represents a potential hazard for the machine operator and should influence the choice of safety solution. The Work Environment Administration also refers to the fact that a protective roof for a cab should be able to withstand a weight of 227 kg being dropped onto the roof from a height of 5 metres. The Hammerglass RABS frame is tested in the same way as a canopy, even though in the equivalent standard for a front guard only half that force is actually required.
– The reason why Hammerglass is demanding more from the product than necessary is because we believe that the standards today do not correspond to the real risks to which the protection can be exposed. A landslide could just as easily fall on the front of the machine as on top of it, and the RABS frame should also protect the operator against rock fall from an exploding drill hole,’ she says.
– We can also conclude from the accident that the frame was most likely subjected to a force far in excess of what the Swedish Work Environment Administration refers to and that the design in this case exceeded expectations. It is also an acknowledgement to Scandinavian Stone that they have thought correctly in their risk assessment and have taken care to choose the best possible protection for the situation. It may well have been the deciding factor in the driver’s ability to get out of the cab unharmed in this accident.
The company is a merger of Svimpex Granit and Emmaboda Granit and has been quarrying various types of natural stone since 1933. Scandinavian Stone is part of the Naturstenskompaniet International group, which operates 15 quarries in Sweden and Norway. The quarry in Vånga, where Jörgen Stjernkvist works, consists of a rich granite deposit.
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