Quarry firm fined for disclosure failures

A quarrying company has been found guilty of failing to report the ill-health of an employee as well as breaching health and safety regulations.

The law requires employers to report industrial diseases and employees may not realise they can contact their solicitors over work-related ill-health if cases are not seriously documented.

According to Workplace Law, Tynedale Magistrates' Court found Robert Thomas Charlton, trading under the name of Border Stone Quarries, guilty of breaking the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 when he did not inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an employee contracted silicosis.

It was only when the HSE carried out a routine unannounced inspection that it was revealed that a worker had contracted the potentially lethal disease after being exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS).

Therefore, the HSE also charged Mr Charlton with breaching the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.

Mr Charlton's solicitors put in a plea of guilty on his behalf to both counts and he was accordingly fined £6,000 plus £7,602 costs.

Workers exposed to RCS can develop chronic lung disease known as "silicosis". RCS can also increase the risk of lung cancer.

HSE inspector Andrea Robbins commented: "It is vital employers monitor dust levels to assess the risk of exposure of employees to RCS, and that they put control measures in place to reduce the levels to which employees are exposed, and consequently reduce their risk of developing silicosis.

"This prosecution serves to publicise the need for employers to be vigilant in identifying substances in their business which can affect workers' health. In particular, companies who generate stone dust, which contains silica, should take precautions to protect their employees' health. Trades most at risk include stonemasons and quarry workers."

People in Northern Ireland who believe they may have been affected should visit their solicitors.

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