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Company and director prosecuted for stone dust failings

Date:
18 July 2014

The director of a London masonry company has been handed a suspended prison sentence for exposing workers to harmful stone dust and ignoring notices to improve extraction ventilation.

Employees at Redmist International Ltd, on Standard Road, Park Royal, were placed at unnecessary risk of inhaling dust, which can cause long-term health problems, for a period of six months between January and June 2013.

The company and director Ghausal Islam, 52, of Willesden Green, were sentenced yesterday (17 July) after an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) identified serious concerns.

Southwark Crown Court heard that stone dust was commonplace at Redmist through regular polishing and grinding work. If inhaled it can cause occupational asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), silicosis or even lung cancer, so it is vital that adequate measures are in place to limit exposure.

However, a HSE inspection on 24 January 2013 revealed that an extraction ventilation system in the factory was inadequate and hadn’t been properly tested to ensure it was fit for purpose.

Two Improvement Notices were served requiring urgent changes, but follow-up visits on June 5 and 13 established that nothing had changed, and that employees were still facing potentially harmful exposure.

The court was told that Mr Islam had a legal duty to protect his workforce and that he and the company had seemingly ignored HSE’s intervention.

The director, of Staverton Road, NW2, was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years, and was also ordered to pay £9,000 in costs for breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Redmist Internatonal Ltd, of Standard Road, Park Royal, escaped penalty for separate breaches of the same legislation because it is no longer trading and is the subject of a winding up order. The judge ruled that had it the means to pay, a £50,000 fine would have been imposed to reflect the significance of the failings – as illustrated by Mr Islam’s custodial sentence.

After the hearing HSE Inspector Saif Deen said:

“Stone dust can be incredibly harmful and exposure, even over a relatively short period, can have devastating consequences.

“It is therefore vital that companies involved in processes that generate airborne dust have effective systems in place to extract harmful particles, and provide adequate personal protective equipment for their employees.

“That didn’t happen at Redmist International and the company, under the lead of Ghausul Islam, displayed a poor performance over the period of our investigation. The clear concerns we identified were blatantly ignored and HSE will not hesitate to prosecute when worker safety is compromised in this way.”

Notes to Editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”
  3. Section 21 states: “If an inspector is of the opinion that a person (a) is contravening one or more of the relevant statutory provisions; or (b) has contravened one or more of those provisions in circumstances that make it likely that the contravention will continue or be repeated, he may serve on him a notice (in this Part referred to as “an improvement notice”) stating that he is of that opinion, specifying the provision or provisions as to which he is of that opinion, giving particulars of the reasons why he is of that opinion, and requiring that person to remedy the contravention or, as the case may be, the matters occasioning it within such period (ending not earlier than the period within which an appeal against the notice can be brought under section 24) as may be specified in the notice.”
  4. Section 37 states: “Where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of, any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

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