A school which exposed workers to high levels of silica dust for over a decade has been fined £100,000.
Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe, Lancashire, employed a 55-year-old man as a stonemason for almost 12 years, where he was exposed to high levels of the harmful dust. He was diagnosed with silicosis in July 2011, just four months before he was made redundant.
The man, who has asked not to be named, has suffered serious and irreversible health effects leading to reduced lung function and breathlessness. As a result, he can no longer work as a stonemason.
At a prosecution case at Preston Crown Court brought about by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it was revealed that the college didn’t spot the risks and nothing was done to capture or suppress the dust.
The HSE found that workers may have been exposed to over 80 times the daily limit for silica dust.
The college employed the stonemason as a member of staff in June 1999. His job was to carry out the extensive repairs and weather-proofing on the 200-year-old college buildings. In 2005 another stonemason was taken on, followed by a third in 2009, when the school decided to build a new four-storey, sixth-form building.
During the course of the 21-month project, 400 tonnes of sandstone was used and the three workers spent a lot of time using powered hand tools to cut, shape, chisel and finish the sandstone, which contains between 70% and 90% of dangerous crystalline silica.
The college workshop, where two of the stonemasons worked regularly, had no windows or extraction system.
The court also heard that even after one of the stonemasons had developed silicosis in July 2011, it didn’t take any action until its two remaining stonemasons were made redundant in November 2011.
Stonyhurst was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £31,547.78 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.
Date Published: June 3, 2014
Author: David Brown