A coach and bus manufacturer has been sentenced after showing “reckless disregard” towards its power tool safety, which led to many staff suffering from hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Sheffield Crown Court fined Edinburgh-based Alexander Dennis £100,000 after hearing that it shunned several warnings concerning the over-use of certain tools.
No restrictions on use
Alexander Dennis placed no restrictions on the kind of tools its staff used, or how long they were permitted to use them, a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found.
There was also no system to keep the tool kit updated – even if items became worn out or very old. The tools were also poorly maintained with one tool having been in the factory since 1987.
Staff had no training or data regarding how to lower the vibration risks and there was an absence of health surveillance schedules to monitor for early symptoms of HAVS in the workforce.
HAVS can result in stabbing pains, numbness, whitened fingers, discomfort and even a seriously reduced grip in both hands.
Nine staff at Plaxton’s, the company’s North Anston-based after sales, refurbishment and repair plant, were found to have HAVS three years ago.
Power tools exposed staff to health risk
A maximum of 25 workers at Alexander Dennis were exposed to HAVS after using sanders, grinders, drills and other held-in-the-hand power tools, the court heard.
It was also told that Alexander Dennis consistently failed to act on specialist advice, expert reports and employees’ complaints of HAVS-related symptoms.
The HSE intervention has prompted reforms at the firm. They now undertake staff risk assessments, provide regularly-maintained, improved tools and train workers on protective measures as well as offering health checks.
Alexander Dennis was also told to pay costs of £18,643. It admitted breaking Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Judge Gargan called its failings “inexplicable”, while the HSE’s Christine Mellor spoke of the company’s “reckless disregard” concerning their workers’ health.
Source: Health and Safety Executive
Date Published: June 27, 2015
Author: Jonathan Brown