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Company that failed to protect workers cutting flagstones from silica dust after HSE warning is fined £20,000

10 July 2019
silica killer

Respirable crystalline silica is a slow, long-term killer. The HSE is trying to stop workers being exposed to it.

A company told by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) to stop exposing its workers to respirable crystalline silica when they sawed flagstones but continued to do so has been fined £20,000 with £3,000 costs.

The company fined on 9 July when it appeared before Greater Manchester Magistrates was Playscape Design Ltd of Ball Grove Drive, Colne, Lancashire, a playground installation and landscaping contractor.

The court heard that it failed to provide employees with adequate control measures to prevent their exposure to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) in spite of being served with an Improvement Notice by HSE telling it to do so.

The offence happened on 23 March 2018. The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an unannounced inspection of a site at Newbank Garden Centre, Bury Road, Radcliffe.

The HSE inspector served a Prohibition Notice to stop two employees of Playscape Design Ltd using a powered tool to cut flags without any respiratory protective equipment. This put the health of the employees at risk due to exposure to RCS, which is released when silica-containing materials are cut with a powered tool.

HSE served an Improvement Notice, requiring the company to provide adequate control from exposure to RCS.

But the company did not provide evidence of compliance within the deadline and completed a second, similar job at the same site with no adequate control measures in place.

Playscape Design Ltd of Ball Grove Drive pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 and also admitted not complying with an Improvement Notice, which is an offence under Section 33(1)(g) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE inspector Rebecca Hamer said after the hearing: "The working conditions we encountered were putting the health of the employees at risk due to exposure to RCS, which is released when silica-containing materials are cut with a powered tool.

"Exposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause life-threatening diseases, including silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), which can lead to impaired lung function, lung cancer and death.

"This incident could so easily have been avoided by simply carrying out correct control measures and safe working practices.

"Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards."

If you want to read a first hand account of what it is like to suffer from silicosis from a stonemason who has since died of it, click here.

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