A Kent firm has been fined £20,000 and ordered to pay nearly £50,000 in costs after a worker was left with a permanent disability – Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome or ‘white finger’
The worker had been working for a long time with vibrating machine tools, Canterbury magistrates heard.
A further four employees were also diagnosed with symptoms of early Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), a debilitating condition that cannot be reversed.
The firm was prosecuted for safety breaches after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was made aware of the high incidence of HAVS among its staff.
The court heard the firm had failed to manage the exposure of their employees to the serious risks of vibration for more than 10 years.
As a result one employee in particular was diagnosed with advanced HAVS in both hands.
Although he remained with the company he needs to ask for the help of a colleague whenever a task requires the use of a hand-held power tool.
HSE found the company failed to assess their workers’ level of exposure to vibration until HSE began its investigation.
By this time some employees were either at or beyond the trigger levels for developing symptoms. The firm also failed to put preventative measures in place until HSE served an improvement notice.
“Hand-arm vibration can have a significant impact on a worker’s health” – said the HSE
The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £49,149 in costs after admitting a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
After the hearing the HSE said: “HSE guidance on HAVS was published as long ago as 1994 so vibration risk has been widely known for many years – “white-finger” was a common industry term for HAVS.
the company failed to manage this risk over a significant period of time across its sites across Kent.
“Hand-arm vibration can have a significant impact on a worker’s health.
“If the use of power tools is not controlled correctly by engineering and manufacturing companies, workers can develop HAVS to a degree that will have a permanent disabling impact on their working and social lives.”