More than 20 cases of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) were diagnosed at a Merthyr Tydfil-based manufacturer when a new health and safety manager implemented measures to manage the condition.
Investigating the case at Linde Heavy Truck Division Ltd, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found there had been no recognition of the risks from hand-arm vibration and no effective management of it over several years.
The company admitted breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, which exists to raise the standards of health and safety in the workplace. It was fined a total of £50,000 and was ordered to pay £14,793.60 in costs.
A total of 21 employees were diagnosed with HAVS after the new health and safety manager took over.
HAVS is a debilitating condition that causes loss of dexterity due to numbness or pain, plus the discolouration of the fingers. It is common among employees in a number of industries and occupations.
Hand-held power tools and hand-guided machinery are known to be among the main causes of the condition. Prolonged and regular exposure to such vibration can lead to irreversible damage to the nerves, blood vessels, soft tissues and bones in the hands.
The risk can be controlled and managed so that employees are protected from ill health. However, in this case, Linde Heavy Truck Division Ltd failed to introduce a fully compliant management system for HAVS.
Workers reported symptoms including tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in their hands.
They have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.
HSE Inspector Helen Turner says the employees were exposed to the risk of HAVS on a daily basis yet Linde Heavy Truck Division failed to recognise this.
There was no health surveillance in place to identify employees who may have already had some vibration damage, even though the company employed ex-miners and experienced fitters, or to pick up whether someone was suffering symptoms before they became serious.
The factory in Merthyr Tydfil closed down at the end of 2013.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: January 7, 2016
Author: Jonathan Brown