£200,000 HAVS fine

Vibration can cause HAVS

Using tools against a hard surface causes vibration that can lead to HAVS. Not protecting staff against HAVS can lead to hefty fines.

In case you thought hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) had gone away, a £200,000 fine imposed on a company where two workers suffered from it is a stark reminder that it hasn’t.

The company involved is not in the stone industry. It is Ross & Catherall Ltd, based in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire. It makes metal bars for the aerospace and automotive industries. The two operators who suffered HAVS worked at the firm’s Forge Lane site in Killamarsh, Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £7,605.37 in costs at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 17 July after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at Work (etc) Act 1974.

The men had carried out tasks that included the use of vibrating tools throughout the company’s manufacturing process.

Both operators used these tools for extended periods of time over a number of years without adequate systems in place to control their exposure to vibration.

RIDDOR reports submitted by Ross & Catherall in May 2019 revealed the employees had been diagnosed with HAVS.

The RIDDOR reports prompted a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) investigation. HSE discovered there was no hand-arm vibration risk assessment in place prior to or at the time of the workers’ diagnoses to identify what level of vibration the operators were exposed to.

There were no control measures in place to reduce exposure levels, with reasonably practicable measures only being implemented following HSE’s intervention.

Health surveillance was also inadequate. This was not carried out annually and there was no initial health surveillance assessment for new operators. Additionally, referrals were not carried out in a timely manner for those employees displaying symptoms of HAVS.

HSE guidance on HAVS is available online on the HSE website – click here to see it

HSE inspector Lindsay Bentley said after the Ross & Catherall conviction: “Those in control of work have a responsibility to assess the risk from exposure to vibration, put in controls to reduce this risk and ensure that health surveillance is adequate to identify symptoms in a timely manner.

“HAVS can be a life-changing condition which impacts all aspects of your life. Prevention of vibration damage is key and there is plenty of guidance available for employers to help them protect their employees’ health on the HSE website.”