A masonry firm has been sentenced after employees carried out work that resulted in exposure to respirable silica dust.

GO Stonemasonry Ltd of Accrington has been fined £8000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000 after pleading guilty to breaching s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 for failing to adequately control employees’ exposure to respirable silica dust, resulting in an employee developing silicosis.

Silica is a natural substance found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. Respirable crystalline silica (RCS), however, can reach deep in the lung and cause damage, such as silicosis and lung cancer.

Owing to its potential hazards, RCS comes under the remit of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002) and has a workplace exposure limit (WEL) of 0.1mg/m 3 respirable dust, averaged over eight hours. This means that the COSHH hierarch of controls should be applied and that the concentration of RCS in the air must be monitored to ensure the WEL is not exceeded.

Burnley Magistrates’ Court heard how employees of GO Stonemasonry had been cutting and working with stone for several years without any suitable and sufficient dust extraction prior to 2017. The company failed to ensure that respiratory protective equipment was adequately controlling the inhalation exposure to respiratory silica dust. The company did not have appropriate work processes, systems or control measures in place and had no health surveillance to identify any early signs of effects on workers’ health.

Health and Safety Executive 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.”

Last reviewed 4 July 2019