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Council fined £250,000 for not protecting workers’ health

Date:
18 November 2016

Thanet District Council has been fined after a worker was left with permanent injuries after being diagnosed with hand arm vibration (HAV).

Canterbury Crown Court heard how a worker from Thanet District Council was diagnosed with suffering from HAV after visiting his GP. Symptoms of the condition can include tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the hands. This affects sleep when it occurs at night and sufferers have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that the worker would typically spend up to 6 hours a day using a range of powered equipment including mowers and hedge cutters, depending upon the season. He was not under any health surveillance or told how he should report his symptoms.

The council had not taken steps to eliminate or control the exposure of their workers to HAVs. They also failed to educate their workers on the risk and train them on how to control their exposure to the vibrations caused by the power tools.

At the time of the investigation the council were issued with an improvement notice, as soon as they started to rectify the problem and implement the appropriate health surveillance a further 15 cases of ill-health relating to vibration exposure were identified and reported to HSE.

Thanet District Council pleaded guilty of breaching Regulations 6(2) and 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined a total of £250,000 and was ordered to pay £18,325.84 in costs.

HSE Principal Inspector Mike Walters, said: “Hand Arm Vibration is a serious disease that impacts on people’s lives and impairs their ability to work. It is entirely preventable but once the damage is done it is permanent. Any business, council or employers can learn from this case. If you have workers who use heavy machinery you need to ensure you properly manage the risks from HAVs, control or eliminate the exposure and train them so they can identify the symptoms.”

Free guidance on how to manage the risk from HAVS can be found on HSE’s website:
www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/index.htm

Notes to Editors:
1. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
2. More about the legislation referred to in this case can be found at: legislation.gov.uk/
3. HSE news releases are available at http://press.hse.gov.uk

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