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Council fined after worker diagnosed with HAVS

November 30 2016

A worker has been left with permanent injuries after being diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) as a result of his work for Thanet District Council.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how the worker was diagnosed with HAVS after visiting his GP.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the worker would typically spend up to six hours a day using a range of powered equipment, including mowers and hedge cutters. He was under any health surveillance or told how he should report his symptoms.

Symptoms of the condition can include tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the hands. It can affect and disturb sleep when it occurs at night. Sufferers often have difficulty in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

The council had not taken steps to eliminate or control the exposure of their workers to hand arm vibration. They also failed to educate their workers on the risk or train them on how to control their exposure to the vibrations caused by the power tools.

At the time of the investigation the council were issued with an improvement notice. As soon as they started to rectify the problem and implement the appropriate health surveillance, a further 15 cases of ill-health relating to vibration exposure were reported to HSE.

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

Mike Walters, HSE Principal Inspector, 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 employer 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.”