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HSE SERVE HEALTH WARNING TO STONE INDUSTRY

Serious breaches at over half premises visited by HSE

HSE is urging the stone industry to do more to protect the health of workers following findings of a recent inspection initiative in the south of England.

Inspectors visited sixty stone businesses, including work surface manufacturers, stonemasons and monumental masons (between June to September 2015). The initiative was supported by the Stone Federation Great Britain and both members and non-member firms were inspected.

Four common areas of concern were found:

  • Silica Dust – inadequate control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS);
  • Lifting – unsafe handling and storage of stone;
  • Guarding – poor machinery guarding; and
  • Compressed Air – air receiver explosion risk.

Serious breaches were found at over half (35) the premises visited. HSE issued four Prohibition Notices, 54 Improvement Notices and provided verbal advice to others.

Lack of awareness

A number of businesses were unaware that in 2006 the workplace exposure limit for RCS was revised from 0.3 mg/m3 to 0.1mg/m3 thereby requiring them to devise more stringent controls.

Key issues in this area were:

  • Dry sweeping which can put fine ‘respirable’ stone dust back into the workplace air;
  • Extraction systems which are intended to protect workers by removing stone dust from air in the workplace;
  • Face masks that were inadequate.

HSE Inspector Tahir Mortuza, who led on the initiative, said:

“HSE intends to visit more stone work businesses in the future to ensure that health and safety is adequately managed. Business owners should review their processes and the materials they use whilst thinking about what might cause harm and whether they are doing enough to protect workers.

Once the risks have been identified, businesses need to decide how best to control them so they can put the appropriate measures in place. A good starting point is to look at respirable crystalline silica, as it is one of the greatest risks for businesses engaged in stonework, as found in this inspection campaign.”

Chief Executive of the Stone Federation Great Britain, Jane Buxey, said:

“Health and Safety is a top priority for the Federation and we are working closely with the HSE to improve standards in the Industry.

We hope to run a number of joint events with HSE and they will be sending representatives to Stone Federation Great Britain events and the Federation’s Health and Safety Forum.”

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