Boss fined for providing wrong masks to staff with beards

staff with beardsThe owner of a stone masonry company has been fined for failing to protect the health of his workers, exposing them to preventable risk of suffering life-changing conditions.

Working in an industry where health risks from silica and vibration are well-known but manageable the required actions were not taken, despite Thomas Bushby having received previous advice from the Health and Safety Executive.

Mr Bushby did not provide adequate control of silica, exposure to which can cause silicosis and lung cancer. Operators were not provided with masks for tasks which needed them, other operators were provided with masks which were not suitable due to their facial hair and stone dust was swept up rather than vacuumed, Consett magistrates’ court heard.

Employees carried out tasks using vibrating tools including air hammers, no assessment was made of the risk from this and lower vibration tools were not identified which would have greatly reduced exposure to vibration. The tools in use had very high vibration levels meaning employees were likely exposed above the exposure limit value.

An employee of Thomas Bushby (trading as JLD Stone) was diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome in 2009 and another was diagnosed with the condition in 2014.

During an investigation, HSE found that no health surveillance was carried out on Mr Bushby’s employees between 2008 and 2014. Regular health surveillance is a way to identify early symptoms of disease so action can be taken to stop it getting worse.

Thomas Bushby, of Castleside, Consett, was fined a total of £2,500 and was ordered to pay £1,921.29 in costs after pleading guilty to offences under Regulation 7 (1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and Regulation 5 (1) and 7 (1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

Speaking after the hearing Health and Safety Executive inspector Fiona McGarry said:

“Serious irreversible ill health or even death can result from exposure to silica and hand arm vibration syndrome is a permanent disabling condition. Employers need to take action to ensure they are providing adequate control to protect the health of employees.”