HSE Cracks Down on Stone Dust & Issues Fabricator Fine

HSE cracks down on stone dust and issues fabricator with an £18,000 fine.

We talk about the dangers of stone dust a lot here at Stonegate, but that is because it is such an important subject. Especially this year as HSE announced plans to crack down on firms who were failing to protect their employees from the dangers of stone dust.

True to their word, the HSE issued an £18,000 fine to a Lancashire-based Stonemasons, after an employee contracted Silicosis. Silicosis is a respiratory disease which can develop due to prolonged exposure to silica found in stone dust.

Silicosis can be life altering and in some cases fatal, for more information on silicosis read our blog, ‘The Dangers Of Stone Dust.’

The factory was found by the HSE inspector to not have sufficient or suitable dust extraction in place to protect their employees. They failed to ensure fabricators PPE was adequately controlling the risk and they had a lack of processes, control measures or employee health surveillance, which would have alerted them to their employee contracting this life-threatening disease.

After pleading guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work act 1974 they were fined £8,000 with £10,000 additional costs.

As part of HSE’s campaign to crack down on exposure to stone dust at work, inspectors will be visiting businesses across the country to ensure they are being compliant with the legislation in place.

stoneworker with PPE

What do you need to do to ensure you stay compliant?

Staying compliant with the Health and Safety at Work act 1974 needn’t be the headache it sounds. Get organised with these simple steps and you could literally save lives.

Access the risk

You need to do a risk assessment of your factory detailing the all the risks of injury your fabricators come into contact with. In terms of stone dust, you should include whether you are wet, or dry cutting, how much dust your employees are exposed to and the average time of exposure.

Control the risk

After you have identified the risks to your fabricators, and unfortunately in this industry there are many, you need to list the controls you need to put in place to limit the risk of injury. Some of these controls you most likely have in place, but the HSE needs to see the evidence of your assessment and controls, so this paperwork is vital.

For controlling the risk to stone dust this would include measures such as wet cutting instead of dry, PPE face masks and dust extraction. Keeping a tidy workshop to ensure fabricators are not kicking up stone dust as they move around the factory would also help to control the risk. Training is also a key part of controlling the risk to employees.

Train your teams on how to use PPE, important safety aspects and their importance.

Monitor the risk

After you have put these controls in place, ensure to monitor them.

Regular checks to PPE to make sure they are not damaged and fully functioning is key. Be sure to log these checks in your health and safety file so that you can evidence these if required. Make sure you monitor your employees to ensure they are adhering to your standards. A way to ensure you keep on top of monitoring your controls is to schedule the checks on your yearly calendar as a reminder to complete them.

Monitor your at-risk employees

Health surveillance to your employees is a key part of staying compliant. Any changes in health could indicate that the controls are not adequate enough, giving you a chance to make the required changes. The HSE has provided some excellent advice on how you can be sure to adhere to this requirement.

As before make sure you log all health surveillance as evidence in your health and safety file so that you can prove compliance.

Revisit the Controls

New materials are constantly coming on the market and new technologies that could impact on the amount of harmful stone dust in your factory. It is important to consider your risk assessment a ‘working document’ by which we mean, it is never finished. Reassess at least once a year, or more often if you make changes to your factory or purchase new equipment.

For more information on controlling the risk of stone dust in your factory visit HSE’s guidance on construction dust