Stepping inside the gates of the quarry at Ävja takes you as far as possible away from most of today’s workplaces. It is like travelling decades back in time. You meet muscular quarry workers who blast granite from the ground and skilful stonemasons hammering and chiselling away to carve beautiful objects in their booths. It is only when you stand here, watching the spectacle unfold, that you understand the craftsmanship that goes into creating granite products and the expertise that these quarry workers and stonemasons possess.
Henrik Johansson is 22 years old and has been a quarryman at Ävja for five years. He is following in the footsteps of a stonemason uncle, thereby maintaining the family’s association with the profession. When he entered upper secondary education, Henrik already knew that he wanted to study “rock technology” at Lysekil. He saw himself with a career in which he could be bodily active and outdoors. His upper secondary education gave Henrik an edge in his career. However, starting work as a quarryman requires no specific vocational training or particular prior knowledge. All you need to master is learnt on the job at the quarry.
No two days are the same for a quarryman. In the morning, all the quarry workers assemble near the quarry face and the quarry master allocates the day’s work. Tasks vary from sawing, drilling and wedge-splitting to driving wheel loaders and blasting. Extracting rock that is then further split for the stonemasons to turn into finished products is also part of the quarry worker’s job.
Henrik says that working outdoors is the best thing about the quarryman’s life. It also offers a lot of variety and, at Ävja, a wonderful gang of colleagues.
“I like being outdoors. It’s one of the best things about the job. Of course, winter isn’t so good. It’s cold and hard going. Everything takes longer and more things go wrong. However, summer soon comes round again. Winter seems distant then,” Henrik Johansson, quarryman.
For many people, quarry work is associated with repetitive strain injuries. Henrik feels that any strain depends on the individual, the precautions that are taken and how hard the individual pushes. Heavy lifting is, as in many other jobs, a part of quarry work. In the long term, backs, necks and shoulders can suffer. To minimise the risk of injury, Henrik does strength training and other exercise that make his body more able to handle the strain.
Working with a natural material such as granite is a great challenge for quarrymen. When Henrik and the other quarry workers at Ävja harvest rock, their landscape changes. This means that they sometimes hit problems and, for example, need to reorganise to find the best solution. It is, after all, the rock that largely determines how quarrymen have to work.
It gives quarrymen immense pride and joy to see their products skilfully installed in the right settings. Used indoors or outdoors, natural stone can really give a place a lift.