Stone workers

New Health Warning To Stone Workers From HSE

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-10-27 11:19

Stone Industry Given Warning

In a recent press release the Health and Safety Executive is urging the stone industry to do more to protect workers’ health. The warning arose following the findings of a recent inspection initiative undertaken in the south of England.

Inspection Initiative

Inspectors from the HSE visited sixty stone businesses, including work surface manufacturers, stonemasons and monumental masons during the initiative. The inspections ran from June to September, and the initiative was supported by trade association, Stone Federation Great Britain. The visited businesses were both Stone Federation Great Britain members and non-members.

Serious Health & Safety Breaches 

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

There were four common areas of concern 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.

Unaware of New Exposure Limits

Astoundingly, it was found that 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 much more stringent controls to control exposure.

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.”

The HSE issues new guidance and updates for industry on a continuous basis. You can keep up to date with new guidance, events and other important stone working issues by signing up for the stone working e-bulletin:

If you have any questions about health and safety strategy, or if you would like advice call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online. 

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