Workers exposed to respirable silica dust

An employee of a stone masonry company developed silicosis after being exposed to respirable silica dust.

Workers exposed to respirable silica dustPrior to 2017, employees of GO Stonemasonry Limited in Accrington carried out work that resulted in exposure to the dust. Investigating, the HSE found that GO Stonemasonry Limited had been cutting and working with stone for several years without any suitable and sufficient dust extraction.

The company failed to ensure that respiratory protective equipment (RPE) was adequately controlling the inhalation exposure to respiratory silica dust; nor did it 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.

GO Stonemasonry Limited, of Turkey Red Industrial Estate, Baxenden, Accrington, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company was fined £8,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,000.

HSE Inspector Sharon Butler said after the hearing: “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.”