Thanet District Council has been fined £250,000 after a worker was diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome. The SHP reports that the worker was left permanently injured after spending up to six hours a day using powered equipment.
ELAS Group Operations Director Danny Clarke says: “This case highlights how the HSE are focussing on this area of risk, and employers need to ensure they are doing all that is reasonably practicable to manage the risk appropriately. Let’s not overlook the fact that management of vibration risk is required by law and too many companies have historically buried their heads in the sand rather than potentially opening a can of worms by identifying risks.
“Whilst some individuals may see working with vibrating equipment as an industrial hazard it isn’t, and it can seriously impact on peoples working ability as well as their quality of life. Employers need to understand that where diagnosis is made by a doctor relating to hand arm vibration related conditions such as carpal tunnel or hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), then these are RIDDOR reportable.
“Good vibration management programmes are effective at managing the risk and where risk is managed well this has positive impacts on employees both from a health perspective as well as employee engagement.”
• Assess the risk – who is using which tools, for how long per day and what is the vibration magnitude of the equipment? (You should consider that if you are using manufacturers’ information then this is likely to be lab based and not reflect field conditions)
• Consider your hierarchy of controls – do they need to use this equipment? If so does it need to be for this length of time? Could you consider using alternative tools that don’t vibrate as much?
• Health surveillance – for those who have been identified as at risk and where you can not remove the use of tools that vibrate, then ultimately you need to introduce health surveillance. Employers are advised to undertake annual health surveillance. We also recommend that any new starters who will be working with vibrating tools undertake initial surveillance before they start, where possible, or as soon as possible after starting.
• Where there is vibration risk there is likely to be noise risk too. Have you considered the noise risk?