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Babcock groundsmen suffer HAVS

8 May 14 Three men who worked in grounds maintenance at a Plymouth naval base have been left with debilitating permanent nerve damage in their arms from excessive use of power tools.

Their employer has now been ordered to pay out £20,000 after it was prosecuted by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

The three men, who do not wish to be named, were employed by Babcock Flagship Ltd to maintain the extensive grounds at HMS Raleigh in Torpoint where they were exposed to high levels of hand arm vibration (HAV) caused by using hedge cutters, strimmers and other power tools for long periods.

Truro Magistrates Court heard this week that all three were diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) by occupational health providers in January 2012.

An investigation by the HSE found that the company was aware each worker had vibration-related conditions or health issues that could be aggravated by vibration, having had health surveillance reports between 2009 and 2011. But it failed to put control measures in place either before or after the condition was identified in the workers.

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HSE said that Babcock Flagship did not properly assess the vibration risks faced by staff using the tools and failed to implement suitable controls, such as limiting their exposure to such machinery or providing alternatives. Grounds maintenance staff could regularly work eight hours a day using the same tools.

The court heard the permanent damage caused to the three men’s health had a significant impact on their ability to work and their quality of life.

Babcock Flagship Ltd, Wigmore Street, London, was fined a total of £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after admitting two breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

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