HSE issues health warning to the stone industry
The Health and Safety Executive is urging the stone industry to do more to protect workers’ health following findings of a recent inspection initiative in the south of England.
HSE inspectors visited sixty stone businesses, including work surface manufacturers, stonemasons and monumental masons during the initiative, which ran from June to September, and was supported by trade association, Stone Federation Great Britain. The visited businesses were both Stone Federation Great Britain members and non-members.
Worryingly, serious breaches were found at over half (35) of the premises that were visited. HSE issued four Prohibition Notices, 54 Improvement Notices and provided verbal advice to others.
- Although many of the sites visited were attempting to manage their health and safety, four common areas of concern were found throughout the initiative –
- control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), a hazardous dust which can damage health,
- handling and storage of stone,
- poor machinery guarding, and
- air compressors can create an explosion risk.
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.”