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£400,000 fine for ignoring hand arm vibration syndrome risks

9 August 2018

£400,000 HAVS fine should be a warning to all companies whose employees risk being exposed to vibration injuries.

A company has been fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £39,620.92 costs for exposing workers to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

The judgement came from Cardiff Crown Court this month (8 August) after hearing how about 100 employees were exposed to the risk of vibration injuries and developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome over 22 years. At least 30 employees were said to be exposed to the risk of significant harm.

The company fined is Nordam Europe Ltd, which maintains and repairs aircraft components. But the fine should come as a warning to all companies whose employees could be exposed to vibration injuries, which includes people in the stone industry, especially those using electric and pneumatic tools.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that Nordam Europe employees used a range of hand-held tools, including orbital sanders, rivet guns, grinders and drills.

The company should have carried out a suitable assessment of work activities which exposed employees to vibration and should have implemented additional controls to reduce exposure so far as was reasonably practicable.

The investigation found that the company failed in its duty to implement a safe system of work in order to control exposure to vibration. In addition, employees should have undergone suitable health surveillance to identify symptoms at an early stage of the disease. This could have prevented it from progressing to a disabling condition.

Nordam Europe Ltd of Hawtin Park, Blackwood, Gwent, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Janet Hensey 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 they would have ensured they had the right systems in place to monitor workers' health and the employees' conditions would not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life altering stage.”

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