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Stone Masons Fined £8000 After Silicosis Diagnosis

Posted on September 2, 2019

GO Stonemasonry Limited, a stone masons based in Accrington, Lancashire has been hit with a penalty of £8,000, plus £10,000 in costs, after an employee contracted silicosis. The company pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive into the company found that they were not taking adequate steps to control employee exposure to silica dust. The HSE stated, “The company did not have appropriate work processes, system or control measures in place and had no health surveillance to identify any early signs of effects on workers’ health.” There was no system for dust extraction where stone cutting was taking place. According to the reports, the company had installed equipment to control the dust inside the workplace; however, the extraction system had no external pipework. This meant that the dust was recirculating in the room it was produced, essentially making the system redundant.

As well as this, the HSE found that GO Stonemasonry had not ensured that the Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) provided was giving adequate protection to the wearer. The RPE provided did not provide protection against airborne dust for employees working outside. There was also more than one employee with facial hair, causing problems with the seal of the mask.

The case has come to public attention due to it being highlighted as part of the HSE’s #Dustbusters campaign. The HSE has highlighted control measures around workplace activities which produce potentially harmful dust particles as an area they will be clamping down on. An inspector for the HSE, Sharon Butler, stated “Silica is found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. In the workplace, these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded or carved. Some of this dust may be fine enough to breathe deeply into your lungs and is known as respirable crystalline silica. Exposure to this dust can cause silicosis, leading to impaired lung function, breathing problems and is life threatening.”

“Simple steps to stop workers breathing in the dust must be taken and companies should know HSE will not hesitate to take action against those failing to protect their workers’ health.”

Is Your Face Fit Testing Up To Date?

One of the ways you can show you are taking appropriate measures to protect your employees, is to ensure that your Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) is providing the protection it is designed to give.

Courtley Health & Safety hold regular face fit testing open days. During these open days, you can book in to have your mask tested for fit and effectiveness. If you are a Member, this service is free (£25 pp to non-Members). We are able to test the performance of both half face masks and disposable masks. Fit testing for these types of equipment is vital, as the performance of these types of pieces relies heavily on the quality of fit of the piece to the wearer’s face.

For more information on face fit testing, visit our dedicated page. Or contact us and speak to one of our health and safety experts today.

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