A health board in Wales has been fined £160,000 after 3 workers were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Hand Arm vibration syndrome is a common health complaint associated with long term exposure to vibrating power tools. The workers at the health board were found to be routinely using power tools such as lawn Mowers, hedge cutters and/or strimmers. Worryingly, this persistent use was without exposure to vibration being monitored. This meant that these workers were regularly exposed to high levels of vibration, which subsequently led to their diagnosis of hand arm vibration syndrome.
Failure to assess vibration exposure
According to the HSE, the Health Board had failed to measure any levels of vibration. Appallingly, this included the summer months when power tools were used for ‘hours at a time’.
An investigation conducted by the HSE found that the board had failed to assess the levels of exposure to its employees. Additionally they and had not provided adequate safety information including what to do if there was an accident. Moreover, the board had even ignored requests from their own occupational health department.
Employers are required by law to adhere to the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 which includes looking after the health, safety and welfare of employees.
Hand Arm vibration syndrome
A lack of monitoring, assessment, training and long term health surveillance by the board meant that workers went on to develop hand arm vibration syndrome. This is a debilitating health condition that has uncomfortable and painful symptoms like:
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers
- Loss of sensation in the hands and fingers
- Loss of strength in the hands
- Fingers going ‘white’
- Fingers becoming painful once hands recover from blanching
The symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome are entirely preventable with the correct monitoring and assessment. Sadly, once HAVS has been diagnosed, these symptoms are not curable and so the condition becomes life-long.
After the health boards court hearing, a HSE spokesperson said ‘Employers should conduct a full assessment of the vibration magnitude and exposure duration, before reviewing whether employees are at risk. There is a simple online calculator to help employers complete this process.
“If the health board had followed the free guidance, they would not have exposed employees to risk and possibly have prevented the ill health that has been suffered.”Original source
Managing hand arm vibration in the workplace
Around 2 million people in the UK are at risk of hand arm vibration syndrome. That means that every year regular assessment and monitoring is required to prevent long term ill health.
Taking employees on for any job role, immediately places a responsibility on you for their health and well being on your premises. In addition to on boarding, risk assessing individual job roles should be done as a minimum requirement. What’s more, going the extra mile doesn’t have to cost the earth, especially not when you compare the cost of compliance to the cost of potential fines. Cost should never be a factor in failure to assess. And, thankfully we have a range of vibration monitoring services to suit all business sizes and budgets!
Yet despite the number of workers potentially at risk of developing hand arm vibration syndrome, thankfully many workers are protected owing to businesses prioritising vibration monitoring and control.
Overall, placing an emphasis on vibration monitoring you can monitor potential health problems before they become life-long. Because of this we recommend that if hand arm vibration is a real risk for some workers, you conduct regular vibration assessments. These will help you to:
- Identify & mitigate health risks
- Avoid the loss of skilled workers
- Prevent costly compensation claims
Safety First for vibration monitoring
We love safety. It’s that simple. And we’re passionate about delivering compliance services to UK businesses to ensure they adhere to vibration laws. With over 10 years experience of working to HSE compliance, your business can be compliant in less than 30 days if we get started today!
Through risk assessments, evaluation and action points, we help businesses identify:
- The correct way to use vibrating equipment
- Identify where risks might exist and why
- Test tools & equipment for vibration levels
- Advise your most at-risk employees
- Recommend next steps
- Advise on regular employee health surveillance
Ready to get started?
Finally, if you think that your workforce is at risk of developing symptoms associated with hand arm vibration syndrome, or whole body vibration then we can help. Our dedicated service pages offer an insight into how we work together with you to ensure a safe and happy workforce!