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A stone supply company from County Durham has been found guilty of not protecting its workers from being exposed to harmful substances.

Darlington Magistrates Court was told that despite a warning five years previously, Teesdale Architectural Stone Ltd (TASL) had continued to put worker safety at risk.

The court was told how TASL workers were exposed to respirable crystalline silica (RCS). The hazardous substance, if inhaled, can result in life-changing lung diseases, and it was found that there were inadequate control measures.

There was also a lack of adequate of personal protective equipment (PPE), while what was being used was poorly maintained, further risking safety.

Additionally, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court its inspectors found that no specific health surveillance was in place for those working with RCS.

The court was also advised by the HSE that an inspection in 2007 discovered similar issues. The firm was advised on what it needed to do at the time, but inspectors said there was no evidence of any clear action being taken.

Pleading guilty to a breach of controlling hazardous substances, the firm was handed a fine of £4,000. The court also awarded costs amounting to around £2,525.

After the ruling, the investigating inspector for the HSE, Sal Brecken, explained:

“Cutting stone can cause a lot of dust, which, if it is not controlled, can cause serious health effects – the most serious being silicosis which in its most acute form can be fatal.”

Brecken went on to add that TASL had failed to use the guidance offered by the HSE.

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