Workplan 2012-13: Stoneworker Industry Interventions

SIM 03/2012/03


This operational guidance is about the 2012/13 planned work stream in FOD for continuing an inspection-based industry initiative to the high risk stoneworker sector. This work supports the Manufacturing Sector Strategy and Implementation Plan (hyperlink to be inserted) which aims to reduce the incidence of injury and ill health in stoneworkers in this high risk industry by targeting those higher risk activities through a programme of inspection visits and taking enforcement action where appropriate.


The purpose of this work is to promote a consistent approach to inspection and enforcement in an industry which has a high fatal incidence rate and high exposure to respirable crystalline silica. This initiative will concentrate on stone handling and transport which is the main cause of fatalities, and assess compliance with the WEL for Respirable Crystalline Silica (RCS) and associated COSHH requirements. It applies to fixed-premise activities (eg factories) and to stonework activities undertaken in quarries. It does not include site work such as that covered by Construction Division.


Undertake a series of 100 proactive inspection spread across all FOD Divisions during the 12/13 work year, based on the criteria set out in this SIM.


In the context of this instruction, stonework includes the following activities involving stone:

  • extraction,
  • stonemasonry,
  • monumental masonry,
  • kitchen work surface, etc manufacture.

The stoneworker sector is relatively small, with 8000 to 9000 workers. It is varied in its product base, the range of machinery used and the skills of those employed in it and is extremely fragmented. ONS data for 2005 shows that 85% of 1200 business falling within the relevant SIC 2007 (23.70) had workforces of 10 or fewer and are classified as small or micro-businesses. Less than 6 % of stonework businesses had more than 20 workers and all had fewer than 100 employees.

The majority of the industry is not affiliated to any trade association and the employment of migrant workers and agency staff is commonplace especially at the lower skilled end of the sector.

Contacts for further information

Manufacturing Sector, Metals and Minerals team, Birmingham

Manufacturing Sector, Birmingham

Appendix 1: Inspection Content

When carrying out inspections, the following topics should be included as an indicator of how well the duty holder is managing health and safety overall.

Vehicle loading/unloading and load safety

This is a high priority topic in view of the accident history. Guidance is available in the Stonemasonry topic information pack

Workplace transport

Further guidance may be found in the Workplace transport topic inspection pack


Requirements for Respirable Crystalline Silica including workplace exposure limit and health surveillance. Guidance may be found in the Stone workers Topic Inspection pack.

The topic pack on LEV Inspection will also be relevant to this part of the intervention.


Exposure to high noise levels is likely to arise from the stone processing machinery in use, both static eg saws and hand held eg grinding and polishing tools.

Hand-Arm Vibration

Hand arm vibration associated with the use of hand-held stone grinding and polishing tools.

Migrant workers

This may be a relevant topic for parts of the industry, especially stoneworkers engaged in lower skilled activities eg kitchen work surface manufacture.

Compliance issues

Poor compliance should result in enforcement action in accordance with the HSE Enforcement Policy Statement and the Enforcement Management Model.

Enforcement action taken with regard to control of substances hazardous to health should reflect the emphasis in Regulation 7 of COSHH 2002 (as amended) to apply the principles of good control practice when controlling exposure to substances hazardous to health. Schedule 2A provides details on what is required.

For noise and hand-arm vibration, formal enforcement should concentrate on control of exposure, making use of applicable guidance on good practice control measures in the relevant topic packs.

Appendix 2: Inspection Organisation

Inspection Organisation


Inspections arranged in 2012/13 may be undertaken throughout the work year.


Nationally 100 inspection visits are invited (approximately 8% of the known business operating in the sector). Divisions may use past visiting patterns to this industry in recent years to help identify suitable premises for visiting taking into account the selection criteria below.

In addition, the National Quarries Inspection Team (NQIT) will include stoneworker activities sited within quarries within their interventions.


The following hierarchy of selection criteria should be used for identifying and prioritising premises for visits:

Premises within SIC 2007 code 23700 not visited since 2006-2007


Newly identified sites with SIC 2007 code 23700 for which there is no COIN record


Premises known/considered to be working with stone that has a high RCS content (for guidance see the "Control of exposure to silica dust: A guide for employees" leaflet)


Premises identified from local knowledge as kitchen/bathroom surface manufacturers or equivalent

Note: Sector together with CMU, CCID and CSEAD, are discussing with HSL a health surveillance project as part of the Strategic Research Programme.

This is planned to include stoneworkers. As part of the project HSL with Sector support are compiling a list of known stonework premises which will be made available to FOD Divisions. Further details of the project are obtainable from Sector.

FOD Operations are advised to contact the Sector before commencing proactive visits for 2012 so that requirements of the project can be taken into account when planning visits.

Reporting Arrangements

No special reporting arrangements apply. Normal COIN work recording requirements apply to this work.


Visiting officers should be aware of the diversity needs of the target group. They should give consideration to, and factor in issues such as literacy, English as a second language and disability (eg access needs).

The Diversity & delivery pages give more information on these and other issues, including the communications and EIA toolkits.

Support for operational activities

The Stoneworker Inspection Topic is being updated in response to Inspector feedback.

Support is available from the Engineering, Metals and Minerals team of Manufacturing Sector.

Support for inspection/enforcement should also be available from the relevant Specialist Group.

Advice should be obtained from an Occupational Health/Medical Inspector before taking any enforcement action regarding health surveillance.

Health and safety issues

Please note the Health and Safety Supplements relating to site visits, which are available on the Intranet under Your Health and Safety.


Staff feedback on this guidance and its application is welcomed and should be addressed to the Engineering, Metals and Minerals team of Manufacturing Sector.

Appendix 3: Relevant Activities

Stone Extraction

About 600 of the quarries in England, Scotland and Wales extract building stone and often have a 'stonemasonry shed' on site to pre-dimension stone prior to supply.
These sites will fall under the responsibility of the National Quarries Inspection Team (NQIT).

Stone Masons

Sawyers cut quarried rough blocks to the required size. Large circular saws are most commonly used, but continuous band saws, large reciprocating saws and reel-to-reel wire saws can be found.

Banker masons are workshop based, and specialize in carving stones into intricate geometrical shapes required by a building's design. Banker masons can produce anything from stones with simple chamfers to tracery windows, detailed mouldings and the more classical architectural building masonry.

Carvers cross the line from craft to art, and use their artistic ability to carve stone into foliage, figures, animals or abstract designs.

Fixer masons specialize in the fixing of stones onto buildings. These are construction-type activities not covered by this initiative.

Monumental Stone

Memorial masons carve gravestones and inscriptions. They are often small businesses that also have an interest in other elements of 'undertaking' activities, ie funeral directors, coffin manufacture etc. Memorial masons commonly buy memorial stones as blanks. Typically, lettering will be carried out by hand increasing the risks of HAVs, but blasting can also be used which, although requiring capital investment, in the longer term is quicker and more efficient with a consequent reduction in the risk of HAV.

Stone workers - Kitchen/bathroom etc surface manufacture

Typically this is lower skilled work associated with an increased demand for example for granite work surfaces. It is more dependent on machinery for handling, cutting and polishing large slabs and often uses a lower skilled workforce.

Appendix 4: Industry Health Factors


The main causes of injury are:

  • Handling and movement of stone slabs, including being hit by moving/falling objects which are the main causes of fatalities to stone workers
  • Slip or trip
  • Contact with moving machinery

Since 2003/04, the industry has reported seven fatal incidents. Six of these were crushing incidents, five of which occurred during the unloading of large stone slabs. Over the five year reporting period (2003/04 – 2007/08) 54% of the total number of reported incidents occurred during extraction activities, 29% during cutting, shaping and finishing and 18% during the production of abrasive products.

The industry has a RIDDOR-reportable injury incidence rate 1131.8 per 100,000 employees, which is above the national average of 910.54 for manufacturing. (2007/08 data)

Ill health

The main causes of occupational ill health are:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Silicosis
  • Hand arm vibration
  • Noise induced hearing loss
  • Work related upper limb disorders

Recent scientific evidence suggests that there is a 20% risk of developing silicosis at the previous occupational exposure limit of 0.3mg/m3. In October 2006 a revised Workplace Exposure Limit (WEL) of 0.1mg/m3 came into force.

Exposure to RCS is highly dependent upon the silica content of the type of stone being worked (see the Stone workers Topic Inspection pack).

Of 94 personal samples taken as part of the Silica Baseline Survey for stoneworkers in 2005/6, 43% exceeded the revised RCS WEL and 20% exceeded the old RCS MEL of 0.3mg/m3. See:

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Updated 2022-11-08