Metals fabrication company MTL Advanced Limited has been fined for health and safety breaches after a number of workers were diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome and other hand and arm conditions, consistent with prolonged use.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is caused by occupational exposure to vibrating hand tools and in particular: Chainsaws, impulse tools, concrete breakers, cut-off saws, hammer drills, hand-held grinders, impact wrenches.
HAVS has three main components:
- Peripheral neuropathy of the hands that produces numbness, tingling, loss of dexterity and feeling.
- Secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon of the hands, sometimes referred to as vibration white finger.
- Musculoskeletal problems. These may include complaints of weakness, discomfort, and pain of the hands, wrists, forearms, and elbows.
Sheffield Magistrates’ Court heard that the company was visited by enforcement authorities after a concern was received from an employee. During that visit it was found that there were multiple health and safety breaches, resulting in the company being issued with Improvement Notices.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there were systemic failings to recognise the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or to take appropriate action to control exposure. Of particular concern were accounts from employees of pain and tingling in their fingers, hands and arms and that there were no limits on their use of vibrating tools such as angle grinders.
MTL Advanced Limited of Grange Lane, Rotherham, South Yorkshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company has been fined £90,000 and ordered to pay £14,061 in costs.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Laura Hunter said: “Work activities involving vibrating tools should be properly assessed so that appropriate controls can be implemented to avoid exposing employees to harm. Employees suffering from HAVS can experience difficulty in carrying out tasks in the workplace involving fine or manipulative work and are less able to work in cold conditions. Sadly, these effects can be permanent and life changing.”
What does it mean for Employers?
- A risk assessment must be carried out to understand the risks of vibrating tools and what control measures can be put in place to safeguard the workers.
- PPE will need to be provided to help in vibration suppression.
- Full training, information and supervision of workers with vibrating tools.
- Annual health surveillance will be needed to assess the worker for damage or any deterioration in their mobility, blood flow and sensation to limbs.