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    UK MAJOR FINED £1/2m OVER HAVS RISK FAILURES

    Danger caused by poor management of vibrating hand tool risk

    Contractor Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd. has been fined £500,000 after workers were exposed to a debilitating health condition over a nine-year period.

    HSE found that workers at the company used vibrating hand tool e.g. hydraulics breakers and floor saws, between 2002 and 2011 which involved a risk of developing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), a permanent condition affecting the nerves and blood vessels of the hand.

    HAVS can be associated with pain, tingling and numbness, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks such as gripping and lifting objects, fastening buttons and zips, using a knife and fork or using a tooth brush.

    In some cases, the hands can have a continuous feeling of wearing mittens and hobbies such as fishing or gardening become impossible to do. Symptoms are often worse in winter when it is cold. The condition can render a worker disabled, affecting their chances of employment.

    Failure to heed warnings and “persistent poor compliance”

    HSE investigators told Sheffield Crown Court that the company failed in a number or respects:

    • Reduction – failed to ensure vibration risk was kept to as low a level as reasonably practicable;
    • Assess – failed to assess the risk to worker health;
    • Control – failed put in place and monitor suitable risk control measures; and
    • Surveillance – failed put in place a suitable system of health surveillance.

    In addition, the company did not comply with the legal requirement to report to the enforcing authorities a significant number of cases of employees diagnosed with HAVS.

    • Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd – of Thorncliffe Park, Chapeltown, Sheffield pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company also pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5 (1) of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. These failings occurred between 2002 and 2011. The company was fined £500,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £195,000.

    Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Christine Mellor said:

    “This case was about failing to protect workers. Exposure to hand-arm vibration is a well-known risk which Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd. failed to adequately control.

    The company failed to heed warnings. Early health surveillance detected ill health but still this was not acted upon to prevent on-going exposure.

    This is a particularly serious case because of the extent and duration of failures. The breaches were repeated over several years and this resulted in persistent poor compliance.”

     

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