Thursday 28 March 2013

Company ignored hand-arm vibration risk

A company ignored the risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as a result of which 5 employees developed long term and debilitating health effects.

The employees of GKN Aerospace Services were engaged on the building of aerospace engine casings which required the prolonged use of vibrating hand tools.  This long-term use cause nerve and circulation problems which cause the effect know as "vibration white finger". The circulation problem caused their hands to become white in the cold and they are very painful as they start to warm up. The nerve damage affects their ability to carry out tasks requiring dexterity and they often drop objects.

They were carrying out these tasks between July 2005 and December 2011. Although the symptoms were observed during a health-surveillance problem, no action was taken to put into place controls to protect other employees.  However, GKN reported the instances to the HSE who:
  • Carried out an investigation
  • Issued an improvement notice
  • Prosecuted GKN for failing to properly identify and eliminate the risk of workers being exposed to vibration
As a result of the prosecution, GKN were fined over £35,000 (inc. costs).

The HSE specialist inspector stated, "Work-related health risks cannot be ignored, or pushed down the agenda. GKN had the resources to protect its employees from the well-known effects of exposure to hand-arm vibration, but failed to do so over an extended period. 

 As a result, five employees developed debilitating symptoms, which affect all aspects of their lives, and are unlikely to ever improve. Although most of them were redeployed, the company still failed to assess the risks and implement suitable measures to protect the remaining staff until HSE stepped in at the end of 2011.”

Source: SHP 28-3-13

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