Tragic stories of drownings and deaths which have grabbed headlines across the country have prompted a campaign by quarry operators to emphasise safety awareness, especially in the run up to the summer holidays.
Six people were drowned in former quarry sites across the UK during a two month period last year coinciding with the school holidays, the Islands have been fortunate to be spared such horror stories, but despite this there is no complacency about safety.
With young people at a loose end unused quarry sites can act as a magnet to teens looking for quiet bolt-holes, little do they realise the dangers they could encounter.
As Regional Director at Breedon Aggregates Angus Macleod, explained: “There have been no incidents here but there have been drownings elsewhere at disused and closed quarries in settlement ponds, where the water is a lot colder than expected, and the ponds are very deep.”
With the water compromised with silt swimming in these pools is perilous and once in the water ragged edges make it difficult to climb out.
Marybank Quarry Manager, Davie Macleod, highlighted some of the other dangers, particularly pointing out sometimes unstable cliff faces which are 12 to 15 metres high, meaning a fall would cause serious injuries.
He said: “We make every reasonable effort to keep people out of the area, there are lots of warning notices and signs telling people where they should go and fencing, but if people did want to get into the site they possibly could.”
The scope of the Marybank Quarry is not immediately apparent from the main road heading out of Stornoway, to help camouflage it even more the company have planted trees to shield the site, which also acts to make the terrain more inaccessible if people wander near to the area.
However as the quarry is close to Lews Castle Grounds - at one point only separated by fencing - a recent concern for the quarry company has been the opening up of new walking and cycling pathways by the Stornoway Trust, who are making the most of the well-used estate, offering greater public accessibility to the parkland.
However Angus added the concerns at Marybank are lower than at other sites, explaining: “People generally stay away from operational quarries, but we have quarries at Bennadrove, which has only be open again recently due to the supply for the Stornoway harbour project and when the work falls off that will be closed again.”
As well as safety on site Breedon also work with schools and colleges offering site visits, pointing out safety, as well as demonstrating the work that goes on and it is hoped this outreach work will help to stave off any tragedies in the Islands.
The message to the public is simple - never ignore the warning signs at quarries and similar industrial sites. These sites are not adventure venues and present real danger of serious injury or death, as experience elsewhere has sadly shown.