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Burnley employees exposed to deadly dust

23-07-2012

A Burnley firm has appeared in court after it put four of its employees at risk of contracting a potentially-deadly lung disease.

Elite 04 Ltd., which specialises in shot blasting metal components, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the workers were exposed to a fine airborne dust called respirable crystalline silica.

On 19 July, Reedley Magistrates’ Court in Burnley heard that the dust was formed when workers used sand in shot blasting equipment to remove rust and paint from components at its plant on Lutner Street in Burnley.

The court was told it is illegal to use most common forms of sand for shot blasting as the fine dust particles, which are created when the sand is projected at high speed, can cause silicosis – a potentially fatal lung disease.

The blasting helmet worn by operatives to carry out the work was not sufficient to prevent the dust particles from being inhaled. Colleagues who assisted would also be exposed because they were only given disposable dust masks to wear. When the sand was swept up afterwards, employees did not wear masks at all.

An HSE inspector became suspicious of the substance being used for shot blasting when he visited the site on 20 October 2010 and noticed it was a very light colour. Most substances which can safely be used for shot blasting, such as crushed glass and steel grit, do not look like ordinary sand.

An investigation found that Elite 04 had been using sacks of sand bought from a builders’ merchant for shot blasting for up to three years. The company had previously used a subcontractor to carry out the blasting, but failed to assess the risks when it took on the work itself.

Elite 04 Ltd. pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees. The company was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £8,868 in prosecution costs.

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