Environment Minister Alex Attwood has urged people in Mid Ulster and across Northern Ireland to stay away from disused quarries.
Mid Ulster has a number of disused quarries particularly in the Sperrin mountains.
There have been a number of deaths and serious injuries at disused quarries.
The summer campaign will see new signage at known dangerous quarries, posters, social media and a big push to raise understanding of the scale of the threat and danger.
Alex Attwood said: “We all should be aware of the dangers of disused quarries. Several people have died in disused quarries in recent years. I have met or heard from some of the families and their pain and anxiety that more lives should not be lost, is vivid.
“Today I am launching a series of actions to encourage ‘Stay Out! Stay Safe!’ to highlight the dangers of swimming in quarries. Disused quarries are not playgrounds. They are not places to explore. I cannot emphasise enough that everyone, adults, teenagers and children must stay away. Quarries are “no go areas”.
“Most people do not realise how very cold quarry water can be. It can be much colder than rivers and the sea and this causes swimmers, even the best swimmers, to cramp, go into shock and drown quickly. This is the stark truth. We must all tell the message – “Stay Out! Stay Safe!”
“Quarries pose other hidden dangers. Old machinery can be left in the quarry and become submerged by rainwater over time. Such machinery may not be visible and can cause serious injury or death to anyone who jumps onto it.
“I urge all parents to know where your children are at all times, particularly during the summer holidays.”
Quarry water can also be polluted with industrial contaminants or can be very alkaline, both of which can cause skin irritations and other health complaints. Disused quarries also pose a threat to motorcyclists and mountain bikers through collapse or subsidence or a landslide of a quarry face.
The Minister chaired a meeting attended by representatives of government departments, including the Department of Justice, Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, the Health and Safety Executive NI, district councils and the Quarry Products Association.
Alex Attwood continued: “It has become clear to me, having listened to many relevant people, that a key issue here is increasing awareness of the dangers of disused quarries, particularly among young people. That is why I am launching these actions to “Stay Out! Stay Safe!”. This includes using a lot of social media channels to target teenagers. We will also start putting up signage at quarries we know are the most dangerous.”
The Department of the Environment has also issued warning on NIdirect webpages in an effort to dissuade people from visiting disused quarries, particularly in the good weather when the schools are off.
The Minister added: “The good weather may last over a couple of weeks, meaning more people will go into the water. But I am asking everyone to do what they can and ensure no-one goes into quarry water.”