A ground engineering company has been fined thousands of pounds for failing to recognise that an employee was suffering from serious hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that a worker at Phi Group – part of the Oxfordshire-based firm Keller Limited – had developed the vibration disorder while working.
The worker was diagnosed with the condition after five years of reporting the symptoms to company managers.
Keller Limited pleaded guilty at Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court and a judge ordered the company to pay a £6,000 fine and costs.
What is HAVS?
HAVS – also known as vibration white finger – is a known industrial injury that is usually triggered by continual use of vibrating hand-held machinery.
It is a secondary form of Raynaud’s disease, a condition that restricts blood flow to the hands and feet.
Symptoms of HAVS include pain and numbness in fingers and hands, as well as pins and needles.
The effects of the condition can lead to a lack of sleep when the symptoms occur at night. It can also cause problems for those who have to carry out intricate tasks that require fingers, such as tightening screws, writing or fastening buttons.
The condition can also affect holding and gripping, which can have a life-changing impact and restrict a sufferer’s ability to drive or undertake day-to-day tasks that are often taken for granted.
Importance of surveillance
The court ruled that Keller Limited had ineffectual procedures in place to manage the health and safety of its employees.
Specifically, it was lacking in a suitable health monitoring programme that could assess workers for early onset of HAVS, which could have prevented the employee from developing the irreversible condition.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Mehtaab Hamid said: “This was a case of the company completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS health surveillance.
“If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor worker’s health and the employee’s condition would not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life-altering stage.”
Keller Limited of Oxford Road, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,263.45.
The firm’s managing director, Julian Fletcher, has since written a blog on the website entitled ‘Why we need to be vigilant on vibration’.
Source: Health and Safety Executive