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Wed May 18 2022

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Council fined £50k for HAVS failings

9 May Lancashire County Council has been fined £50,000 after several employees in its highways department developed a debilitating nerve condition from excess exposure to tool vibration.

Stock image of a vibrating hand tool
Stock image of a vibrating hand tool

Lancashire County Council submitted a RIDDOR report to the Health & Safety Executive in February 2019 relating to the diagnosis of a case of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). An improvement notice was served in July 2019 requiring the council to improve its control of HAVs. However, a further 10 cases were uncovered. These were unrelated to the RIDDOR report and reported late. Four more reports were also filed, but these were on time.

In a subsequent prosecution brought by the HSE, Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard how regular use of vibrating tools causes the painful and disabling disorder which, in this case, has left the employees with nerve damage to the hands and arms, making everyday tasks and leisure activities difficult or impossible.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the county council to ensure that operatives accurately recorded their levels of exposure to vibration.

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Furthermore, health surveillance records had not been acted upon promptly to reduce or stop exposure levels when symptoms were reported. Risk assessments were not adequate for controlling the amount of exposure of operatives, and practices had not been implemented to prevent overexposure. Had these measures been in place the total of 15 reported HAVs incidences of ill-health could have been prevented. It was also found that the council had failed to send reports of the various diagnoses to HSE without delay, as required under the RIDDOR regulations (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013).

Lancashire County Council pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 8 of the RIDDOR Regulations 2013. It was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366,78.

HSE inspector Jennifer French said after the hearing: “HAVs can be a serious and sometimes disabling condition that is irreversible. All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff are not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do. HSE is committed to thoroughly investigating companies who do not comply with their duties and will prosecute if necessary.”

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