Stonyhurst fined £100,000 over fatal safety failings

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Stonyhurst College has been fined £100,000 over health and safety failings after one of its stonemasons developed a potentially fatal lung disease.

A 55-year-old man, from Liverpool, was employed by Stonyhurst for almost 12 years where he was exposed to high levels of silica dust.

He was diagnosed with silicosis in July 2011 – four months before being made redundant by the college.

The Health and Safety Executive prosecuted after an investigation found he and other stonemasons might have been exposed to more than 80 times the daily limit for silica dust.

Preston Crown Court heard the college employed the stonemason in June 1999 as the 200-year-old college buildings needed extensive repairs for wind and weather-proofing. A second stonemason was employed in April 2005 and a third in January 2009 to help with a major project to build a new sixth-form building.

The project used more than 400 tonnes of sandstone which the masons worked intensively with power tools. The HSE investigation found Stonyhurst failed to take any measures to monitor or reduce the exposure of workers to silica dust, despite sandstone containing between 70 per cent and 90 per cent of crystalline silica.

The college also failed to recognise the risks and no equipment was used to remove, capture or suppress dust created by the project.

Two stonemasons worked in the college workshop, which had no windows and no way of extracting the dust.

Even after being told one of the workmen had developed silicosis in July 2011, the college failed to take any action to monitor exposure levels until its two remaining stonemasons were made redundant in November 2011.

The stonemason with silicosis suffered serious, irreversible health effects and can no longer continue with his profession.

Stonyhurst was fined £100,000 and must pay £31,547 costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.