Monday 19 August 2013

Even large companies get H&S issues wrong

Rolls Royce has been fined after an employee developed permanent injuries due to hand-arm vibration.
The circumstances were:
  • Allan Thornewill operated wet blasting cabinets, used to clean turbine blades cast in the Derby foundry, for up to nine hours a day. 
  • He had to hold the blades in his hands as they were blasted with water under pressure which exposed him to high levels of hand arm vibration (HAV).
  • Rolls Royce plc did not properly assess the vibration risks faced by workers using the wet blasting cabinets.
  • No suitable control measures were implemented, such as limiting exposure, or providing alternatives.
  • Mr Thornewill received no pre-employment screening and was not included in the firm's health surveillance list.
  • After developing pins and needles and then numbness and pain, Mr Thornewill reported the symptoms to his line manager and sought treatment from his GP. 
  • In September 2009, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and was unable to work for around four months.
  • He has since had four operations on his hands and still suffers dexterity problems in his right hand and weakness in both wrists.
  • In 2012, Rolls Royce installed an automated system to replace the use of the Vapormatt cabinets.

Rolls Royce Plc was fined £78,168 (inc. costs).
The HSE Inspector  said:
"Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome linked to vibration exposure are preventable. However, once the damage is done, it's permanent with no cure. Proper health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage. Rolls Royce plc failed to take action to prevent damage caused by the vibrating wet blasters, failed to provide Mr Thornewill with health surveillance and then failed to respond when he reported ill health. This has led to him suffering prolonged pain and discomfort with some permanent damage which affects the quality of his life. The company should have properly assessed the level of vibration exposure and limited the amount of time workers spent using the wet blasters."

1 comment:

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