A property management and development organisation has been fined after five employees developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Between 2009 and 2014 five employees of Places for People Homes Limited used vibrating powered tools to carry out grounds’ maintenance tasks. The company has been fined £600,000 and ordered to pay costs of £13,995.06 following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which found the company failed to assess or manage the risks associated with vibrating tools through completing an adequate HAVS risk assessment. It also failed to provide suitable training or health surveillance for its maintenance workers and failed to maintain and replace tools which increased vibration levels.
HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. Damage from HAVS can include the inability to do fine work and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks. A suitable HAVS risk assessment must be completed by a competent person to satisfy your legal duty.
The potential of a risk related to vibration affects a wide range of industries, including construction, manufacturing, agriculture and horticulture – in fact anywhere that powered hand tools are used.
The law requires you to undertake a risk assessment of exposure and health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage.
Like other specialist areas of health and safety, it is likely that you will need to get help if this is an issue for you. We’ll happily call you back or you can contact us on 01453 800100 to speak directly to a Chartered Safety Professional. Alternatively use the online chat on the bottom right hand side of this page.
In order to undertake a thorough assessment of exposure, you will need information on both the vibration magnitude of the tools involved and the length of time the tools are in use. Neither of these are easy to measure (or estimate with sufficient accuracy).
The HSE has recently published guidance on sources of vibration magnitude (see https://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/source-vibration-magnitude-app3.pdf), but this does not always provide the answers. So, should you use manufacturers’ data? Again, there is no simple answer. What about exposure time? How do I measure this? It is tempting to invest in expensive and complicated technical solutions to address these issues, but these may not actually achieve what you are looking for.
This is a complex area and it is important to get it right to ensure the wellbeing of your staff and that you are compliant with the law. Don’t wait until you have a problem – don’t forget that HAVS is incurable and permanent. If you think that your workers are potentially at risk from vibration, act now and undertake an assessment of the risk and identify any additional measures that you need to take.