A STONE masonry company has been fined £8,000 after failing to adequately control employees’ exposure to silica dust.

Burnley Magistrates Court heard how a result of the health and safety failings of Baxenden-based GO Stonemasonry Limited, one of their employees developed silicosis – a long-term lung disease caused by inhaling large amounts of crystalline silica dust.

The court heard how prior to 2017, employees of GO Stonemasonry Limited carried out work that resulted in exposure to silica dust, which can be found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete.

An investigation by the HSE found that the company had been cutting and working with stone for several years without any suitable and sufficient dust extraction.

The company failed to ensure that respiratory protective equipment was adequately controlling the inhalation exposure to silica dust.

It also did not have appropriate work processes, systems or control measures in place and also had no health surveillance to identify any early signs of effects on workers’ health.

GO Stonemasonry Limited, of Turkey Red Industrial Estate, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act.

It must also pay £10,000 court costs.

HSE inspector Sharon Butler said after the hearing: “Silica is found in most rocks, sand and clay and in products such as bricks and concrete. In the workplace these materials create dust when they are cut, sanded or carved. Some of this dust may be fine enough to breathe deeply into your lungs and is known as respirable crystalline silica. Exposure to this dust can cause silicosis, leading to impaired lung function, breathing problems and is life threatening.

“Simple steps to stop workers breathing in the dust must be taken and companies should know HSE will not hesitate to take action against those failing to protect their workers’ health.”