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Council fined after construction workers develop HAVS nerve damage

A court has fined Lancashire County Council £50,000 after several of its employees developed hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

The employees in the council’s highways department have suffered nerve damage to their hands and arms as a result of failure to control exposure to vibration.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that, in February 2019, HSE received a RIDDOR report from Lancashire County Council, related to the diagnosis of a case of HAVS.

The council received an improvement notice in July 2019 requiring it to improve its control of HAVS. However, subsequent to this, a further ten cases of vibration-related ill health were uncovered and reported late. These were all unrelated to the RIDDOR report. Four more reports were also filed, but these were on time.

Insufficient supervision

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the council to ensure that operatives accurately recorded their levels of exposure to vibration.

Furthermore, health surveillance records had not been acted upon promptly to reduce or stop exposure levels when symptoms were reported. In addition, risk assessments were not adequate for controlling the amount of exposure to operatives, and practices had not been implemented to prevent overexposure. Had these measures been in place the total of 15 reported HAVS incidences of ill health could have been prevented.

It was also found that the council had failed to send reports of the various diagnoses to HSE without delay as required under the RIDDOR regulations.

Guilty plea

Lancashire County Council of County Hall, Fishergate, Preston, pleaded guilty to breaches of Section 2 (1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 8 of the RIDDOR Regulations 2013. The Council was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366,78.

HSE inspector Jennifer French, said: “HAVS can be a serious and sometimes disabling condition that is irreversible.

“All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure their staff are not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do. HSE is committed to thoroughly investigating companies who do not comply with their duties and will prosecute if necessary.”

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