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HAND ARM VIBRATION DAMAGE PENALISED

Use of pneumatic drills and grinders caused permanent loss of hand mobility

Cheshire East Council has pleaded guilty to contravening the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 after a 56 year-old maintenance worker developed a severe form of hand arm vibration syndrome casing a permanent loss of movement to his hands.

The workman joined Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council as a mechanic in 1984 and regularly used heavy-duty vibrating equipment, including pneumatic drills and hand-held grinders.

The council, which became part of Cheshire East Council in April 2009, first identified the early stages of HAV in July 2005. The workman was recommended for annual assessments but (despite being reassessed in 2006) was not seen again until 2009.

He now has difficulty picking up small objects, such as coins, and his hands become very painful in cold weather.

Alternative tools or reduced use not implemented

On 21 January 2011 South Cheshire Magistrates Court imposed a fine of £5,300 and ordered the council to pay £5,860 towards the cost of the prosecution.

Chris Goddard, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“The worker was first diagnosed as developing hand arm vibration syndrome in 2005 but the council failed to take any significant action for nearly four years to stop the condition getting worse.

It should have limited the amount of time he spent using vibrating equipment, or provided alternative tools. Instead, he was allowed to continue with his job without any changes.

If this action had been taken, the worker’s condition could have been prevented from becoming serious. Instead, he has suffered a permanent loss of movement to his hands.”

Comment

There have been few prosecutions involving hand-arm vibration risk arising from construction work despite the number of construction jobs presenting potential exposure.

Most cases of HAV are not reportable to HSE because person involved is no longer undertaking work involving exposure to vibrating tools at the time of diagnosis.

The downfall in this case was the failure to follow through on required actions after identification of symptoms.

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