The owner of a stone masonry company has been find as a result of failing to protect the health of his workers which exposed them to preventable risk of suffering life-changing conditions.
In this industry where health risks from silica and vibration are well-known but are easily managed, the required actions were not taken despite the owner of the company receiving previous advice from the health and safety executive.
The owner didn’t provide adequate control of silica which when exposed can cause silicosis and lung cancer. The workers were not provided with masks for the tasks which they needed them for, whilst other operators were provided with masks which were not suitable due to their facial hair and stone dust which had been swept up rather than vacuumed.
Employees had carried out tasks using vibrating tools including air hammers and no assessment was made of the risk from this and lower vibration tools were not identified which would have greatly reduced the exposure to vibration. The tools used had very high vibration levels meaning employees were likely exposed above the exposure limit value.
One of the employees at the masonry was diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome in 2009 and another was diagnosed with the condition in 2014.
During the investigation the HSE found that no health surveillance was carried out on the employees between 2008 and 2014. Regular surveillance of health is a way to identify early symptoms of disease so action can be taken to stop it getting worse.
The owner was find a total of £2,500 and was ordered to pay another £1921.29 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.
A HSE inspector 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.”