WFF defends UK industry's record on respirable dust
Britain’s professional stone worktop fabricators have responded with concern to press stories implying the safety of their staff is being put at risk by poor working practices.
The reports cite a nine-year medical research study among Spanish stonemasons and suggests workers in small stone fabricating workshops near Cadiz exhibited an above-average risk of developing respiratory problems as a result of inhaling stone dust.
Mem Zekayi, a director of the Worktop Fabricators Federation which represents professional stone worktop fabricators in the UK, issued the following comment:
“While we can’t comment on whatever conditions researchers may have found in Spain, British worktop manufacturers and our suppliers have been aware for many years of the potential dangers associated with poor workshop practice.
“The UK worktop fabrication industry has led the way in insisting on wet-cutting, dust filtration ventilation and mechanical handling to reduce the risk to our workforce. Responsible worktop fabricators are very aware of the risks of crystalline silica and respirable dust, and have strict Health and Safety control measures in place, including appropriate regular health screening
“One of the core reasons we set up the Worktop Fabricators Federation is because of our concern to ensure customers can have full confidence the materials used to create their dream kitchen have been handled correctly. And that the fabricators and installers who create it are treated with proper respect for their health and wellbeing.
“In a free market, it is not possible to prevent anyone buying slabs of stone. Or from cutting and shaping it in customers’ gardens using angle-grinders or adapted joinery tools. This Spanish research serves as a reminder that one of the reasons properly-made stone worktops command a price premium is the significant investment professional fabricators have made in wet-cutting equipment and properly controlled workshop environments.
“We urge anyone who is thinking of commissioning a stone worktop to talk with a WFF member about what it means to do the job safely and professionally.”
Back-to-work with Best Practice
With house-builders now re-opening sites and some WFF members re-starting operations, here's the latest proof that many heads are better than one.
WFF members have collaborated to create a template of best-practice guidelines, specific to our industry, to complement the construction industry-standard Site Operating Procedures.
Members are welcome to take as much or as little from the template as they wish, to suit the needs and messaging of theirt own businesses. But we hope they will provide a useful risk-assessment benchmark for managing expectations in these still uncertain times.
HSE confirms temporary arrangements
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has confirmed that plant and equipment inspections should continue during the coronavirus pandemic -- whilst recognising that there is reduced capacity for them to be undertakendue to a lack of available personnel and restricted access to site.
If you are continuing to use equipment outside of its inspection period, you still have a duty of care and must document actions taken to make the equipment safe to use. Details of the HSE's pragmatic best endeavours approach have already been posted on the WFF Equipment / Handling forum page.
The HSE has also confirmed temporary changes for first aid cover in the workplace during coronavirus:
• Anyone with a first aid certificate that expires on or after 16 March 2020 and is unable to access re-qualification training may qualify for a 3-month extension. This applies to First Aid at Work (FAW) and Emergency First Aid at Work (EFAW).
• If first aid training is interrupted and thequalification cannot be completed within the usual timeframe, training can re-start at a later date as long as a full recap of training already delivered is undertaken and candidates show the knowledge and competencies required.