A Merthyr Tydfil door manufacturer has been fined £50,000 after an employee of the company was exposed to vibration from the use of handheld pneumatic buffing and sanding tools over a period of 15 years causing him to develop Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
HAVS is often caused by the use of hand-held power tools. It is often associated with heavy steel fabrication, some foundry work and the use of hand-operated breakers/pneumatic tools in ground work and road maintenance. It is a serious condition caused by regular and frequent exposure to hand arm vibration.
Regular and frequent exposure can lead to permanent health effects. HAVS can result in tingling, numbness, pain and loss of strength in the hands causing distress and sleep disturbance, affecting the ability to do work safely. HSE have written advice for employers.
An HSE investigation found the company failed to implement a safe system of work in order to control the risk of exposure to vibration. The company had not carried out a suitable risk assessment of work activities from the use of the power tools resulting in poor control measures. The company had not provided adequate information, instruction and training for employees or supervisors which resulted in inadequate control measures when working and a lack of adequate supervision.
The court heard employees were exposed to vibration levels that had not been reduced to as low as was reasonably practicable thereby increasing their risk of developing HAVS. The investigation also found the company had did not have a suitable health surveillance system in place which is vital to identify symptoms at an early stage.
The company, which is not a BWF member, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, and has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £1,881.70.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lee Jones said, “This was a case of the company completely failing to understand the importance of assessing the risk to their employees from exposure to vibration and therefore putting in place the correct control measures.
“If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor worker’s health and the employee’s condition would have not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life altering stage.”
Additionally you may wish to undertake a Health & Safety Audit that will not only suggest where your health and safety needs to be improved, but also how to achieve it. The BWF has negotiated exclusive rates with experienced Health & Safety advisors for a simple value for money package.
Last but not least, pledge your support to the BWF Health & Safety Hero Campaign, where we have put together some excellent resources to help your business tackle problem areas such as wood dust, machine training, noise, manual and handling. All of which may help in avoiding potential costs of FFI and perhaps more importantly ensure the health and welfare of all employed in your joinery business!