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Private school fined after stonemason develops lung disease

Stonyhurst College in Clitheroe has been prosecuted over health and safety failings after one of its stonemasons developed a potentially fatal lung disease.

What happened?

The 55-year-old employee worked at the college for almost 12 years where he was exposed to high levels of silica dust. He has since been diagnosed with silicosis, just four months before being made redundant by the college.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that he and other employees have potentially been exposed to more than 80 times the daily limit for silica dust.

The court heard that the 21-month project to repair the 200-year-old college and build a new sixth-form building, required more than 400 tonnes of sandstone, and the employees spent their time working intensively with powered hand tools.

The investigation revealed that the college had failed to ensure that satisfactory measures were in place to monitor or reduce the exposure of workers to silica dust – despite sandstone containing between 70% and 90% of crystalline silica.

No equipment was used to remove, capture or supress the dust that was created by the use of power tools, and two of the employees worked in a workshop with no windows and no way of extracting the sandstone dust.

The employee, who cannot be named, has suffered serious and irreversible health effects as a result of the exposure. Since being diagnosed with silicosis, he suffers from breathlessness, has reduced lung function and can no longer continue to work.

What was the outcome?

Stonyhurst College plead guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and was fined £100,000 and ordered to pay £31,547.78 in prosecution costs.

HSE Inspector Mike Mullen said:

“There was no attempt by the college to assess and manage its workers’
exposure despite having their attention drawn to the risks
by its own health and safety consultant in 2008.

“A worker who was previously very active now struggles to play outside
with his grandchildren, and will suffer breathing
difficulties for the rest of his life.

“Silicosis is irreversible and can be a fatal disease. It leads to an
increased chance of suffering from lung cancer, tuberculosis,
kidney disease and arthritis, and it’s therefore vital
the risk from silica dust is taken seriously.”

If you, or someone you know have been exposed to silica dust at work, and you would like expert advice, contact Hampson Hughes Solicitors today on 0800 888 6888 or email

Source: View article

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