Frequent use of vibrating equipment leaves workers with lifelong syndrome…
A company based in Bolton involved in the manufacturing of limousines and hearses, has appeared in court after seven of their employees developed a debilitating condition while working at the company over a six and a half year period.
The workers were eventually diagnosed by medical experts with a condition known as hand arm vibration syndrome which could be attributed to their frequent use of heavy machinery and tools such as pneumatic drills and grinders which produce a constant vibrating effect.
Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that the seven men between the ages of 25 and 62 developed the condition during their period of employment at the manufacturer’s plant in Westhoughton between July 2005 and December 2011. The symptoms of the syndrome are varied and include feelings of tingling and numbness in the fingers, pain in the hand area, a loss of sensation and ability to feel things with the hand, and something known as vibration white finger which causes extreme pain in the fingertips. The condition is chronic and has no known cure and will be with the affected workers for rest of their lives.
The subsequent investigation by the HSE into the company discovered that they had to failed to carry out an adequate risk assessment to check the threats associated with using vibrating equipment and had not ensured that their workers were adequately protected from the long-term consequences of using such tools. After an Improvement Notice was issued, the company has since taken some steps to reduce the damaging effects posed by these tools by reducing the amount of time workers spend using them, and purchasing new equipment with less powerful vibrational capacity.
The company was fined £10,000 in addition to £13,485 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
HSE Inspector Mike Lisle commented after the hearing had concluded:
“Some of the workers now have difficulty picking up small objects, such as screws and nails, which is essential for the job they do. They will also suffer some level of pain in their hands for the rest of their lives.
“The risks of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome are well known in the manufacturing industry and employers have a legal duty to make sure the exposure of workers to vibrating equipment is kept as low as possible.
“Sadly employees at the company in question regularly used high-level vibrating equipment over several years that was badly maintained, with few controls in place over its use. This made it almost inevitable that they would develop the condition.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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