£160,000 HAVS fine is a reminder to protect employees from exposure to vibration

Powys Teaching Health Board website

Powys Teaching Health Board says on its website that it "will neither tolerate nor accept the abuse of health and care staff", but it failed to protect its own employees from exposure to vibration injuries and three of them now suffer from HAVS as a result.

Stone companies are once again reminded of the need to assess, monitor and reduce the risk of employees' exposure to vibration injuries when using power tools. 

This reminder comes as a health board in Wales, responsible for looking after people’s health, is fined £160,000 for exposing its own workers to vibration injuries that led to three cases of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found the health board had even ignored requests from its own occupational health department to conduct an assessment of the risks being faced by employees, who routinely operated handheld power tools such as lawnmowers, strimmers and hedge cutters for several hours a day, particularly during the summer.

The health board had not carried out any assessment of the risks its employees faced. There was no monitoring nor any estimate of exposure levels. Information, instruction and training given was also minimal.

Some of the employees had been operating power tools for several decades when three of them were diagnosed as suffering from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

Powys Teaching Health Board of Glasbury House, Bronllys Hospital, Bronllys, Powys, Wales, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 when it appeared before Wrexham Magistrates on 22 November. As well as being fined £160,000 it was ordered to pay costs of £5,599.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joe Boast said: “This was a case of the health board completely failing to grasp the importance of managing its staff’s exposure to vibration while using handheld power tools.

“Employers should conduct a full assessment of the vibration magnitude and exposure duration before reviewing whether employees are at risk. There is a simple online calculator to help employers complete this process.

“If the health board had followed the free guidance, it would not have exposed employees to risk and possibly have prevented the ill health that has been suffered.”

HSE’s hand-arm vibration exposure calculator can be found here along with more advice on controlling exposure to the risk of vibration injuries.