Saint-Gobain fined £500,000 for HAVS offences

Saint-Gobain's £500,000 fine for three cases of HAVS among its employees should be a warning to stone companies to carry out health surveillance and protect workers from exposure to harmful levels of vibration.

Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK Ltd has been fined £500,000 after three people working at its foundry in Telford, Shropshire, were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). 

Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court heard this month (8 March) how one of the three employees had been using vibrating tools at the company since 1989. He and two other employees were diagnosed as having developed HAVS in 2016. But despite the diagnosis, one of the sufferers continued working with vibrating tools without any effective measures being put in place to control the risk of further harm being caused.

The employees used tools such as angle grinders, pneumatic chisels, spindle grinders and, earlier on in their employment, jackhammers to finish cast iron drainage products.

An investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that until 19 December 2017, the vibration risk assessment did not identify each employee’s daily exposure to vibration and did not measure cumulative exposures of using different vibrating tools throughout a shift.

The investigation also found there was inadequate health surveillance in place and employees were not made aware of HAVS and its symptoms.

Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK Ltd, of Saint-Gobain House, East Leake, Loughborough, Leicestershire, pleaded guilty to failing to discharge the duty imposed upon it by Section 2(1) of the Health & Safety at work etc Act 1974.

As well as the £500,000 fine, the company was ordered to pay costs of £9,453.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Andrew Johnson said: “This was an established multinational company that had the resources to protect its workers from the effects of excessive vibration but failed to do so over a long period of time.

“All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff is not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do.”