Engineering Firm in Court After Workers Suffer Nerve Damage
A Nottinghamshire aerospace engineering company has been ordered to pay more than £190,000 in fines and costs for failing to protect its employees from the effects of vibration, after 24 workers were diagnosed with debilitating nerve conditions.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted SPS Aerostructures Ltd after the workers developed either Hand Arm Vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome from being exposed to high levels of vibration for several years at the company’s premises.
Nottingham Crown Court heard that although HSE was notified of an employee being diagnosed with HAVS in 2010, the issue dated back to 2005 when the company’s health and safety committee asked it to carry out a suitable risk assessment for exposure to vibration, and act on the result.
An assessment of the company’s tools took place in 2006 which identified some (including drills, grinders and hammers) posed a high risk from exposure to vibration. However, they were not taken out of service and no controls were put on their use until 2010.
In addition, some employees used their own tools, which were also not assessed and therefore no controls put in place.
HSE found that although the company provided some health surveillance for employees, it was not sufficient to identify symptoms early and refer individuals to occupational health specialists for timely diagnosis and management.
The court was told some of the employees had to undergo operations and some had to be removed from the work they were doing.
The company was fined a total of £125,000 and ordered to pay £65,805 in costs after admitting two breaches of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
Carry out a risk assessment for the work activity to identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration. The following areas should be reviewed when carrying out a risk assessment:
- Suitability of equipment and tools for the work activity
- The tool must be suitable for the task and used correctly by the operator. Check periodically after initial training that the operator continues to use the tools correctly
- Reduce and restrict exposure time (“finger-on-trigger” time) to reduce exposures levels
- Ensure adequate work temperature – review use of gloves and thermal clothing
- Ensure job rotation introduced where possible and there are regular planned breaks
- Provide adequate instruction, information and training on the hazards of HAVs and the controls required to reduce the risk
- Carry out health surveillance where legally required
Further Guidance on the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 which came into force in July 2005 can be found on the HSE website.
Doyle Clayton can provide support with the development of HAVS policies and information handbook for personnel. Please contact Sally Beck for further information.
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