Silica dust safety warnings ignored by stone working firm


We have recently reported on HSE’s new campaign against silica dust and other harmful products that cause respiratory diseases. We can expect court cases such as this, that involve these hazards, to assume greater prominence over the next 12 months.

In this instance, workers were exposed to risk at a stonemasons company, Teesdale Architectural Stone Ltd (TASL) at Barnard Castle. HSE inspected the firm on 16th October 2012, but not for the first time: a visit and tests in 2007 had shown high silica dust levels, and inspectors gave managers advice on how to control the dust problem.

Fatal RCS Risks

The specific danger that concerned them is Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS), which may lead to potentially fatal lung diseases like silicosis. Sadly, there was not much sign of improvement in the intervening period between 2007 and 2012. Other HSE complaints from the newer visit were that:

  • Equipment was not kept in ‘efficient working order’
  • It was not in good repair when seen
  • The machinery was not clean

Furthermore, from the workers’ point of view, the last health surveillance on them had been carried out in 2007, and despite the danger of exposure to RCS they had not been tested since.

Unnecessary Risks

This lack of testing is very important: as the Inspector concerned commented, there is a lot of guidance that the stonemasons can follow in order to control this issue – because “the health risks from silica dusts are insignificant when exposure to dust is properly controlled. There is no need to become ill through work activities and there is no excuse for companies not following the guidance. Teesdale Architectural Stone Ltd should have done more following the guidance offered to them by the HSE in 2007.

Fine for offending firm

The result of its negligence was that at Darlington Magistrates’ Court, Teesdale Architectural Stone Ltd entered a guilty plea to its breach of Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. Its fine was £4,000, plus £2,525 of prosecution costs.

Although this incident occurred in a trade supplier, the same risks are of course faced daily by thousands of workers employed by contractors on building sites: and the same regulations can catch their employers out.

For more information about the control of substances hazardous to health, log on here: and for proactive building safety consultancy, including advice and training on dust prevention issues, log on to McCormack Benson Health & Safety.