Company fined £30,000 for health and safety breaches

A company that specialises in the cutting, shaping and finishing of stone has been fined £30,000 for breaches of health and safety and failing to follow advice previously given by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2016.

During a routine inspection of Stoneworld (Oxfordshire) Limited’s premises in Great Milton, Oxfordshire, in February 2022, it was found the company was not managing the risks from stone cutting activities.  Machines were inadequately guarded; large quantities of stone were stored at an unsafe height in damaged wooden packing crates and stone dust had accumulated in quantities which could affect a worker’s health.

HSE took action as Stoneworld (Oxfordshire) Limited failed to carry out risk assessments and put in place reasonably practicable measures. This included providing training; installing suitable guards to prevent access to dangerous parts of machinery; implementing a safe system for storing stone; and, protecting against the risks from stone dust by providing local exhaust ventilation (LEV), suitably rated vacuum cleaners and health surveillance for stonemasons.

HSE Prosecutor Jon Mack told Oxford Magistrates’ Court: “The risk of inhaling respirable crystalline silica includes, developing silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or lung cancer and, as such, cutting stone is a high-risk work activity in respect of which appropriate control measures are required.”

He added that the company had previously been convicted of an earlier health and safety offence in 2020, following an accident.

Stoneworkers can suffer ill health and disease caused by Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) in the stone dust that they breathe in.  HSE has details on silica dust guidance.

Stoneworld (Oxfordshire) Ltd, of View Farm, Great Milton, Oxford pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £30,000 and was ordered to pay £6,050 costs at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 28 November 2023.

Sentencing the company, District Judge Kamlesh Rana said: “I am very clear that it was fortunate that no-one was injured.”

After the hearing, HSE inspector Emma Page said: “The fine imposed on Stoneworld (Oxfordshire) Ltd should underline to everyone that the courts, and HSE, take a failure to follow the regulations extremely seriously.

“Those in control of work have a responsibility to manage the risks arising from their undertaking by assessing those risks and implementing appropriate controls. They then support this by providing information, instruction, training and supervision to their workers to ensure they work safely and free from risks to their health.  For some hazardous substances health surveillance may be required.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. We prevent work-related death, injury and ill health through regulatory actions that range from influencing behaviours across whole industry sectors through to targeted interventions on individual businesses. These activities are supported by globally recognised scientific expertise.
  2. More information about the legislation referred to in this case is available.
  3. Further details on the latest HSE news releases is available.