Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Ramsgate company fined £69,000 after employees develop Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Cummins Power Generation Ltd., of Ramsgate,  were fined £69,149 (inc. costs) on 22 July 2014 after one of its employees was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), a debilitating condition that cannot be reversed.
The circumstances were:
  • Some employees used hand-held tools which had a high level of vibration.
  • Cummins Power Generation had failed to manage the exposure of their employees to the serious risks of vibration for more than ten years.
  • The company failed to assess their workers’ level of exposure to vibration until the HSE began its investigation. By this time some employees were either at or beyond the trigger levels for developing symptoms. 
  • The firm also failed to put preventative measures in place until HSE served an improvement notice.
  • As a result one employee in particular was diagnosed with advanced HAVS in both hands.  Although he still works with the company he has to ask for the help of a colleague whenever a task requires the use of a hand-held power tool. He is also unable to enjoy previous hobbies of golf or swimming.
  • A further four employees of Cummins Power Generation Ltd were also diagnosed with symptoms consistent with early stage (HAVS).

The HSE Inspector said:
“HSE guidance on HAVS was published as long ago as 1994 so vibration risk has been widely known for many years – ‘white-finger’ was a common industry term for HAVS.  Cummins Power Generation failed to manage this risk over a significant period of time, from early 1998 to early 2009, across its sites in both Ramsgate and Margate. Hand-arm vibration can have a significant impact on a worker’s health. If the use of power tools is not controlled correctly by engineering and manufacturing companies, workers can develop HAVS to a degree that will have a permanent disabling impact on their working and social lives. Measures can include purchasing tools with the lowest vibration levels, introducing better systems of work when possible to avoid exposure all together, making sure workers know how to use tools properly and regular health surveillance to detect any early signs.”

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