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VISIT TO GP TRIGGERED HSE HAVS INVESTIGATION

Court imposes £250,000 fine after HAVS management failings uncovered

Thanet District Council has been fined £250,000 after a worker was diagnosed to be suffering from hard arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

Canterbury Crown Court heard how the workman employed by Thanet District Council visited his GP and was diagnosed as suffering from HAVS. The symptoms of the condition can include tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the hands. This affects sleep when it occurs at night and sufferers have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

HSE investigated the matter and found that the worker would typically spend up to 6 hours a day using a range of powered equipment including mowers and hedge cutters, depending upon the season.

Further fifteen cases revealed

The workman was not part of a health surveillance programme nor was he told how he should report his symptoms. Investigators revealed that the council failed in respect of:

  • Management – suitable steps had not been taken to assess, eliminate or control exposure of their employees to hand arm vibration;
  • Awareness – failure to educate workers on the risk from vibrating power tools; and
  • Training – failure to train workers on how to control their exposure to the vibration caused by the power tools.

HSE served a formal Inprovement Notice during the investigation. When the council began to rectify the problem and implement the appropriate health surveillance a further 15 cases of ill-health relating to vibration exposure were identified and reported to HSE.

Thanet District Council pleaded guilty of breaching Regulations 6(2) and 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined a total of £250,000 and was ordered to pay £18,325.84 in costs.

HSE Principal Inspector Mike Walters, said:

“Hand Arm Vibration is a serious disease that impacts on people’s lives and impairs their ability to work. It is entirely preventable but once the damage is done it is permanent.

Any business, council or employers can learn from this case. If you have workers who use heavy machinery you need to ensure you properly manage the risks from HAVs, control or eliminate the exposure and train them so they can identify the symptoms.”

 

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