Company Sentenced After Giving Employee Silicosis
A stone masonry company, based in Accrington, has been fined £18,000 after failing to adequately protect its employees from being dangerously exposed to silica dust – resulting in one employee contracting silicosis.
Naturally occurring, silica is found in most rocks, bricks, concrete and tiles. When silica containing substances are cut, drilled, polished or grinded, a fine dust is released into the air, often invisible to the human eye.
When inhaled in large quantities or in excessive amounts, silica dust can cause a number of respiratory conditions, including silicosis, bronchitis, lung cancer and systemic autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
Silica dust is the second biggest risk to construction workers, after asbestos.
An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that employees of GO Stonemasonry Limited had been conducting stone cutting for several years prior to 2017 without the use of sufficient dust extraction or respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Furthermore, the company had insufficient work processes, safety systems and control measures in place, alongside no health surveillance to identify any early signs of worker ill health.
Following a court hearing, GO Stonemasonry Limited pleaded guilty of breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, fined £8000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.
HSE inspector Sharon Butler said after the hearing: “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.”
Workers can protect their lungs from harmful silica dust particles by simply wearing a tight-fitting p3 respirator, such as the Custom Fit Easimask. When fitted and worn correctly, RPE acts as a barrier for the dust in the air, filtering out the harmful particles so that only clean air is breathed in.
If a tight-fitting respirator is worn, it is essential that the wearer is face fit tested first to ensure a seal can be achieved.
A wearer should also be clean-shaven when wearing tight-fitting RPE to prevent leakage.
For more information on how employers can control exposure to silica dust, please read HSE’s INDG 463.