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MAJOR PLC FAILED TO ASSESS VIBRATION RISK

HSE prosecute after worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome

Rolls Royce Plc has been fined £60,000 after an employee developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome after being exposed to high levels of vibration at the company premises in Derby.

Derby Crown Court heard (16 August) that the workman operated blasting cabinets to clean turbine blades for up to nine hours a day. He held the blades in his hands as the blades were blasted with water under pressure thereby exposing him to high levels of hand arm vibration (HAV).

The court was told that on developing pins and needles followed by numbness and pain he reported the symptoms to his line manager and sought treatment from his GP. In September 2009, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and was unable to work for around four months. He has had four operations on his hands and still suffers dexterity problems in his right hand and weakness in both wrists.

HSE investigators found the company did not properly assess the vibration risks faced by those using the cabinets and no suitable control measures were implemented e.g. limiting exposure or providing alternatives.

The workman received no pre-employment screening and was not included in the firm’s health surveillance list. Rolls Royce installed an automated system which removed employees from exposure to the vibration hazard in 2012.

Almost 2m people in the UK work in conditions where they are at risk of developing vibration-related ill health. This includes certain high risk construction activities.

Vibration exposure should have been assessed and exposure limited

Rolls Royce Plc of Buckingham Gate, London, was fined a total of £60,000 and ordered to pay £18,168 in costs after admitting/being found guilty of a breach of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, and a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Noelle Walker said:

“Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome linked to vibration exposure are preventable. However, once the damage is done, it’s permanent with no cure.

Proper health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage. Rolls Royce plc failed to take action to prevent damage caused by the vibrating wet blasters, failed to provide Mr Thornewill with health surveillance and then failed to respond when he reported ill health. This has led to him suffering prolonged pain and discomfort with some permanent damage which affects the quality of his life.

The company should have properly assessed the level of vibration exposure and limited the amount of time workers spent using the wet blasters.”

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