A vehicle manufacturer has been fined after seven employees developed a debilitating nerve condition over a six-and-a-half-year period.
Bolton-based Woodall Nicholson Ltd, which makes limousines, hearses and specialist emergency vehicles, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after the workers were diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome.
The men, aged between 25 and 62, developed the condition while working at the plant in Westhoughton between July 2005 and December 2011 as a result of near daily use of hand-held equipment such as grinders, saws and pneumatic tools, all of which constantly vibrate.
The workers suffered symptoms including tingling and numbness in their fingers that caused sleep disturbances, being unable to feel things with their fingers, loss of strength in their hands and pain in their fingertips during cold weather known as vibration white finger.
Trafford Magistrates’ Court heard that Woodall Nicholson failed to ensure that risk from exposure to vibration from the tools was reduced as much as possible and over a protracted period of time.
The HSE issued an improvement notice requiring changes to working practices after being made aware of the workers’ condition. Woodall Nicholson has since introduced measures to reduce the level of vibration by buying new lower-level vibrating tools and reducing the amount of time workers spend using them.
The company was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £13,485 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Mike Lisle said: “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.”