Stonyhurst College has been fined £100,000 for a breach of health and safety regulations where a stonemason was put at risk of serious injury while working there.
A judge said the failings by the college were “lamentable” and multiple failings had occurred over 12 years.
When the college decided to employ its own stonemasons, it had failed to become familiar with rudimentary knowledge of basic risks to workers.
Preston Crown Court heard there had been an obvious risk of inhalation of dust and a stonemason later went on to be diagnosed with silicosis.
Stonyhurst College, which has stood at Hurst Green for more than 200 years, had admitted an offence of failing to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health and safety of its employees.
It has extensive historical stone buildings, many Grade One listed, and, in 1999, a decision was taken to directly employ its own stonemasons, rather than contracting outside companies.
Much work was done in a 15ft square workshop, with the only ventilation via a doorway. The dust could get so thick at times that men struggled to see across the room. Therefore, when possible, the men would work outside, even though there would still be considerable amounts of dust in the air.
Miss Lisa Judge, for the college, said the charitable organisation had extreme remorse. The matter was being taken very seriously at the highest levels.
She told the court: “This is not an offence born out of a blatant disregard for their health and safety statutory regulations. This offence occurred due to an educational establishment taking on the responsibility for certain aspects of building maintenance, that it had insufficient technical knowledge about.”
The barrister said the greater percentage of stonemasonry work was done outside. “It wasn’t a scenario where stonemasons were simply left to get on with the task in hand,” she said. “A risk assessment was done.”
The college had been aware dust existed, but had not known something called RCS was present.
Judge Anthony Russell QC ordered Stonyhurst College to also pay more than £31,000 prosecution costs.
He said it was a very serious breach and there had to be a substantial fine to reflect its seriousness. He added a message had to go out to organisations, businesses or charities, that they must heed health and safety advice.
He added: “The failings in this case were, in my view, lamentable.
“The serious injury to health was foreseeable in this case. The reality is no thought was given to the risks and even the most basic steps were not taken to protect the stonemasons from obvious risks to their health and safety.”