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    HAND ARM VIBRATION RISK PROSECUTION CONCLUDED

    Ten employees believed affected by ill health attributable to vibrating hand tools

    Vehicle manufacturer Land Rover has been prosecuted for failing to take into account the risks associated with using vibrating hand tools (air chisels) used at the Solihull Plant in 2007.

    Two cases of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) were reported in December 2006. Investigation found that vibrating hand tools were being used across the plant with a lack of assessment and management of risk. When an effective health surveillance regime was put in place other cases came to light.

    The magistrates heard there was no system in place to measure the time spent using the tools by each employee or the levels of vibration. The recommended amount of time for one of the tools was one hour per day per person. It had been in use for three hours per day. 

    Ten employees were thought to be affected by ill health attributable to the use of vibrating hand tools at the Solihull plant. The lack of assessment of risk and the time spent working with the tools appears to be an “oversight”. None of the employees appear to have been prevented from continuing in the job.

    Vibrating hand tool use must be properly managed

    Land Rover pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £60,606 costs.

    HSE inspector Gareth Langston said:

    “Land Rover had systematically failed to assess and manage the risk arising from using these tools. Some employees were found to be using vibrating hand tools for periods of time far in excess of the recommended limits.

    The fact that sister plant Jaguar had addressed the issues, does suggest that this particular instance was an oversight on the part of the company. However, lessons need to be learned by employers – to ensure that working practices are suitably assessed for any risk.

    Employers must ensure that the use of vibrating hand tools is properly managed, and it is unacceptable that Land Rover did not do this – as this is a disabling condition involving pain and significant loss of hand function, and is usually irreversible in later stages.”

    Comment

    There are very few HSE prosecutions involving HAVs in any sector. This case may indicate that a more ‘robust’ approach to enforcement is to be applied in future.

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