Company fined heavily following poor occupational health advice
A UK car dealership has been fined £140,000 at Sheffield Crown Court, following breaches of health and safety laws and poor practices by the company’s retained occupational health provider.
Motor sales company, Perrys Motor Sales Ltd (PMS) and Occupational Health & Safety Consultants, S & Ash Ltd (previously known as Sound Advice Safety and Health Ltd.), were both sentenced for safety breaches after a worker developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
HAVS is a serious and irreversible medical condition, which is also entirely preventable. Regular surveillance of those working with vibrating tools or machinery is stipulated by law. It is usually carried out by occupational health professionals, often at the workplace.
The Court heard that in 2013 a PMS employee, who regularly used handheld power tools to undertake small scale vehicle body work repairs, was diagnosed with HAVS. Following some serious issues in the coming years, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) started an investigation, which discovered that, following the diagnosis, PMS took no action to protect the employee from further damage to his health and his condition was not reported to the authorities in line with legal requirements.
S & Ash Ltd, an occupational health firm, was engaged by PMS to provide HAVS health surveillance for employees. The investigation found that following the health surveillance, the business failed to provide suitable and accurate advice to the employer, or to inform the employee of the results of his health surveillance, even when specifically requested to do so by him.
PMS pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 8 of The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 2013. As well as being fined £140,000 the company was also ordered to pay £7,658.67 in costs.
S & Ash Ltd pled guilty to breaching Section 3 (1) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was been fined £4,000 and was also ordered to pay £8,716.17 in costs.
After the hearing HSE inspector, Heather Cunnington, commented: “Vibration can cause long-term painful damage to hands and fingers.
“The motor vehicle repair trade must understand the importance of suitable risk assessments and having a robust occupational health and safety management system. Employers should ensure that the results of health surveillance are acted upon and employees are protected from the risks from HAV when working with handheld power tools.
“Occupational health providers are in a unique position in safeguarding the health of employees and must provide accurate reports to employers following HAV health surveillance. Employers must act on these reports.”
The level of fine clearly demonstrates that just having access to occupational health advice is not enough – the quality of the advice is essential too. Please click here to learn more about our occupational health advice service.