Handling and storage of large sheet stone slabs

Health and Safety Executive - Safety alert

Department Name:
Operational Strategy Division - Manufacturing Sector (Metals and Minerals Team)

Bulletin No:
OPSTD MS 3-2010

Issue Date:
23 February 2010

Target Audience:
Stonemasons, Quarries, Construction sites, Wholesalers and Road Hauliers handling the loading / unloading, and storage of large stone slabs. Metals and Minerals processing & production. Stone Federation, British Aggregates Association, Mineral Products Association


Handling and storing large sheet stone slabs carries a high risk of serious personal injury unless undertaken in a safe manner. Due to their size and configuration, such slabs are potentially unstable when stored on edge.


Six people have been killed in the last five years due to being struck by falling stone slabs of this type during storage and handling operations.

Depending upon the type of rock, slabs can fail during handling in unpredictable ways. For example natural stone can be fissured and may crack and/or shatter unexpectedly during handling.

Action required:

Employers, the self-employed and any person engaged in the handling of stone slab should review their arrangements to ensure that:

  • No person should be within the hazard zone into which a slab might fall whilst it is being handled.
  • Safe systems of work have been drawn up to ensure that slab handling
    • has been planned by a competent person
    • is adequately supervised
    • is carried out in a safe manner
  • Slabs always remain restrained during loading/unloading operations, whether from vehicles or from storage when any person could be in the hazard zone into which a slab might fall from its racked position or fail during lifting. This includes when attaching/detaching straps, lifting slings etc. This is especially important when loading/unloading vehicles due to the variable and unpredictable effects of road camber and/or vehicle suspension
  • Rack type storage systems are designed so as to prevent slabs either toppling over or slipping out from the base. Traditional 'A' frame type storage is not suitable in this context unless modifications have been undertaken that achieve the above goal. Storage systems on vehicles should be similarly suitable.
  • Employees are given appropriate information, instruction and training on the dangers of handling large stone slabs and the need to follow safe working practices including the use of appropriate lifting equipment and PPE.
  • Appropriate lifting equipment and PPE is provided, maintained, used and inspected.

Employees should:

Co-operate with their employer in following safe working practices.

Relevant legal documents:

  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act (1974)
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
  • Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (1998)
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations (1998)
  • Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (1998)
  • Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended)


Further information:

Contact HSE

General note:

Please pass this information to a colleague who may have this Product/ Equipment or operate this type of system/process

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