Workers developed debilitating hand condition after using vibrating equipment…
A council in Merseyside has been prosecuted after 29 employees were diagnosed with a condition known as Hand Arm Vibration syndrome that has left them with severe and debilitating issues with their hands.
One of the employees worked at the council for several years before noticing problems with his hands – he had used strimmers and mowers while working in the Park and Leisure Department at the council and was diagnosed with the condition in 2009.
The man had to change jobs as a result of the condition which caused severe pain to his hands in cold conditions as well as dexterity difficulties. He has since been prescribed with medication in order to increase blood flow to his hands and to repair nerve damage. However he is just one of 29 workers that have developed the hand syndrome between July 2005 and December 2009.
The HSE decided to investigate after the recurring pattern of employees developing the condition and discovered that many of the employees worked with heavy or vibrating machinery such as hedge-trimmers and tree-cutters.
It was also revealed at Wirral Magistrates’ Court that the council had failed to carry out adequate risk assessments with regard to the use of the equipment nor did they have safety controls in place that might have limited the damage caused by the equipment such as limiting the time of use of the tools or providing alternatives.
The council pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £9,417.
One of the employees affected commented after the hearing:
“Before I was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, I would often use vibrating machinery for long periods of time in the course of my job. When I began noticing symptoms and went to the doctor, he immediately asked what I did for a living and made the connection.
“I still have problems with loss of feeling and find it difficult to do everyday tasks such as fastening buttons. An attack can be triggered by everyday events such as a change of temperature or even taking food out of the freezer.
“Although I no longer work with vibrating tools, I will have the condition for life – the nerve and blood vessel damage is irreversible.”
Christina Goddard, who investigated the case for the HSE also said:
“Wirral Council failed to take action to prevent damage caused by vibrating tools, with the result that 29 workers now suffer from a debilitating condition.
“The council should have limited the amount of time workers spent using vibrating equipment or provided alternative tools. If appropriate action had been taken then the workers’ condition could have been prevented.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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