Safe and healthy. Not all masons work in such good conditions.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is urging stone companies to do more to protect workers’ health. This follows the inspection of stone companies last year in the South of England in an initiative supported by Stone Federation Great Britain.
HSE inspectors visited 60 stone businesses, including work surface manufacturers, stonemasons and monumental masons, from June to September. They visited both members and non-members of Stone Federation Great Britain.
Worryingly, serious health & safety breaches were found at more than half (58%) of the premises 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 & safety, four common areas of concern were found throughout the initiative:
- control of respirable crystalline silica (RCS), a hazardous dust which can damage health (read more here)
- handling and storage of stone
- poor machinery guarding
- air compressors (which can create an explosion risk)
It is hard to believe, but a number of the businesses claimed to be unaware that in 2006 the workplace exposure limit for RCS was revised down from 0.3mg/m3 to 0.1mg/m3, requiring them to devise more stringent controls.
Key issues in this area were:
- Dry sweeping up, which can put fine respirable stone dust back into the workplace air
- Inefficient extraction systems
- Inadequate face masks
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 & safety is adequately managed. Business owners should review their processes and the materials they use while 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.”
Jane Buxey, the Chief Executive of Stone Federation Great Britain, adds: “Health & 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 & Safety Forum.”
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: www.hse.gov.uk/stonemasonry/subscribe.htm.