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MAINTENANCE WORKERS EXPOSED TO VIBRATION RISK

Housing Association failed control and monitor significant health risk

A South Wales Housing Association has been fined £100,000 after failing to take adequate measures to protect workers from the hazard of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Cwmbran Magistrates heard how Charter Housing Association Ltd reported six cases of HAVS following a health surveillance programme launched in June 2015. The employees affected were all part of the maintenance team.

HSE investigators found conditions of the workers involved were likely to have been caused or worsened by the use of vibratory power tools whilst employed by the company. Staff in the maintenance and refurbishment departments experienced significant exposure to hand arm vibration in their daily work which put them at risk of developing or exacerbating existing HAVS.

Risk stemmed from multiple failures

The investigation also found the company failed to:

  1. Plan – adequately plan working methods to reduce the risk;
  2. Inform – and train employees on the risks to their health;
  3. Manage – by limiting the duration and magnitude of exposure to vibration; and
  4. Health – put in place a suitable health surveillance to identify problems at an early stage.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and permanent condition caused by regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration. HAVS results in tingling, numbness, pain and loss of strength in the hands which may affect the ability to do work safely and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance.

  • Charter Housing Association Ltd – (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) of High Street, Newport pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £9,896.88.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Joanne Carter said:

“The health of people should not be made worse by the work they do. If Charter Housing had correctly implemented its health surveillance earlier, it would have ensured the right systems were in place to monitor workers’ health. The six affected employees’ conditions may have been prevented from developing or developing to a more severe stage.

How people work today can affect their health and well being tomorrow. This case serves as an important reminder of the necessity of task based risk assessments to establish the level of exposure, control measures to reduce that exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable and effective health surveillance systems.”

 

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