Onward Homes has been fined £80,000 after a court found four employees developed a “disabling” nerve condition as a result of using power tools to which it had failed to prevent or reduce exposure.
The employees developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) over a period of several years, Liverpool Magistrates’ Court heard, while conducting regular ground maintenance and construction work using vibrating power tools on behalf of the housing association.
Regular use of vibrating tools can cause the debilitating nerve condition, which, in this case left the employees with severe nerve damage to the hands and arms.
HAVS can be a painful condition and cannot be cured – though it can be prevented.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Onward Homes had failed to prevent or reduce its employees’ exposure to intensive and protracted vibration.
Employees were not provided with information and training in relation to the risks of exposure to vibration, and were unaware they were at risk, or of the need for health surveillance and ways to minimise exposure using controls.
Had the employees been aware, exposure could have been reduced or eliminated, the HSE said, and the employees may not have developed the condition.
Onward Homes pleaded guilty to breaches of Regulation 5(1), 6(1) and 7 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
The organisation was fined £80,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,293.10.
Post hearing, HSE inspector Emily Osborne, said: “If exposure to vibration is not controlled, workers can end up being diagnosed with HAVS, which can be the cause of significant ill-health, triggering painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves, and joints.”
“Under these circumstances, HSE can and will investigate and prosecute where appropriate.”
Image: Anselm Kempf/Shutterstock
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