Monday, 29 June 2015

Alexander Dennis fined £118,000 for ignoring hand-arm vibration problems

National bus and coach builder Alexander Dennis Ltd. was fined £118,643 (inc. costs) after it ignored multiple warnings about dangers of vibration from of hand-held power tools. 
The circumstances were:
  • For several years, the company persistently failed to heed expert advice, specialist reports and complaints from workers of pain, discomfort, numbness and whiteness in their fingers. 
  • These symptoms are typical of the type experienced by workers suffering from the permanent debilitating condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). 
  • There was uncontrolled exposure to hand-arm transmitted vibration in the case of up to 25 staff in the Plaxton motor vehicle repair workshops. 
  • There were no restrictions on the type of hand-held power tools employees used or the length of time they were allowed to operate them. 
  • One tool was 28 years’ old and a lack of maintenance meant tools were not running at the optimum level to minimise vibration. 
  • Workers were not provided with any information or instruction on how to minimise the risk from vibration and there was no health surveillance programme to check for early signs of HAVS among the workforce.
  • 9 workers at their Plaxton’s workshop were diagnosed with HAVS in 2012.
  • Since HSE’s intervention the company has taken action to assess the risk to their employees, provide better quality tools which are regularly maintained, train employees on how to protect themselves and provide regular health checks to pick up early signs of the disease. 

The HSE inspector said:
“Alexander Dennis continually ignored their employees’ symptoms which showed they were suffering from the effects of vibration caused by the extensive use of a variety of hand-held power tools – sanders, drills, grinders etc. It failed to heed recommendations from consultants they had engaged to assist in managing the health risks to employees, including the advice from occupational health professionals. 
At the same time, the company was fully aware that successful civil claims had been brought by employees. Despite all this, Alexander Dennis continued to expose employees to an uncontrolled risk. The risks associated with the use of hand-held power tools and of developing HAVS and carpel tunnel syndrome are well recognised in the industry. There has been written guidance from HSE since 1994 and specific regulations setting out the duties of employers since 2005. There can be no excuse for the company’s reckless disregard for their employees’ health HAVS is a serious, permanent condition which frequently has lifelong consequences.” 

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