£200k fine for causing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
A business has been fined £200,000 for failing to protect
two workers from an occupational hazard: Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
Ross & Catherall Ltd is a leader in the manufacture and
supply of metal bars for industrial applications. Two employees carried out a
range of tasks, including using vibrating tools, whilst at work. As a result,
they developed HAVS.
Using vibrating tools can cause HAVS, an irreversible and
life-changing condition. HAVS causes a loss of sensation in the fingers, numbness
or tingling in the hands and arms. There is some evidence it can lead to carpal
tunnel syndrome. It is completely preventable, but once the damage is done it is
The Control of
Vibration at Work Regulations place a legal duty on employers to assess and
identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm
vibration. The HSE provides simple free guidance for
employers to ensure compliance with the law.
No risk assessment or HAVS controls
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there was no hand-arm vibration risk assessment in place. This would have
identified what level of vibration the workers were exposed to.
Both workers used vibrating machine tools for extended
periods of time, over a number of years, without adequate systems in place to
control their exposure to vibration.
The HSE found that health surveillance (regular monitoring) was
inadequate and was not carried out annually, which is usually recommended by health
professionals as a control measure. There was no initial health surveillance
assessment for new workers joining the firm.
There were also no control measures found in place to reduce
exposure levels, with measures only being implemented following HSE’s
HSE inspector Lindsay Bentley said: “Those in control of
work have a responsibility to assess the risk from exposure to vibration, put
in controls to reduce this risk and ensure that health surveillance is adequate
to identify symptoms in a timely manner.”
An avoidable fine
Catherall Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health
and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to
pay £7605.37 in costs at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 17 July 2023.
The fine and associated legal, reputational costs and
personal injury claims could easily have been avoided by engaging an
occupational health provider to assess, monitor and mitigate the risks. The
costs of doing so in advance are infinitely lower than remediation at a later