Housing Associations in Wales need to do more to protect workers from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome
A second community housing association in Wales has been fined for mismanaging risks of injury to its employee’s just months after another Welsh housing association was fined £100,000 for the same failure.
Newport Magistrates’ Court fined Tai Calon Community Housing £30,000 for failing to protect employees from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) over a prolonged period of time. The Court heard that the association’s employees were routinely exposed to vibration between July 2010 and May 2015. Only when the organization introduced health surveillance in May 2015 were several workers diagnosed with HAVS.
The HSE found that there had not been sufficient risk assessment, surveillance or training and the association was found guilty of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974. In addition to the £30,000 fine, it was ordered to pay £2,789.25 in costs.
HSE inspector Paul Newton said: “No one’s health should be made worse by the work they do. In this case, if Tai Calon had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor its workers’ health.
“This prosecution highlights the health risks from using vibratory tools and the importance of employers having a health surveillance programme in place. Where vibratory tools are used, employers should monitor the health of employees using them and ensure appropriate systems are in place to manage and control the risk from vibration.”
Bigger housing association fine in South Wales in December
In December 2017 a South Wales Housing Association was also fined for exposing workers to HAVS. Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard how Charter Housing Association Ltd also discovered the injuries to six employees after the introduction of a health surveillance programme in June 2015.
The HSE found that workers had been exposed to vibration from tools on a daily basis and that employees were not adequately trained.
Charter Housing Association Ltd (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) of High Street, Newport pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The company was fined £100,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £9,896.88.
Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Joanne Carter said:
“An individuals’ health should not be made worse by the work they do. If Charter Housing had correctly implemented its health surveillance earlier, it would have ensured the right systems were in place to monitor workers’ health. The six affected employees’ conditions may have been prevented from developing or developing to a more severe stage.
“How people work today can affect their health and wellbeing tomorrow. This case serves as an important reminder of the necessity of task based risk assessments to establish the level of exposure, control measures to reduce that exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable and effective health surveillance systems. In the case of Charter Housing this realisation came too late.
“All employers need to do the right thing to protect workers’ health.”
What is HAVS?
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is the medical term for symptoms caused by the excessive use of vibratory hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines. The excessive use of vibratory tools can cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm.
Workers deserve compensation
Nimish Patel, Associate Director and Head of HAVS Department at Roberts Jackson, said:
“It’s clear from the figures involved in these fines that the HSE deems the failures in both of these cases to be significant. People suffering from HAVS can continue to suffer from numbness and tingling for the rest of their lives and once the blood stops flowing to the end of their fingers it becomes a regular reminder of the damage. There’s no doubt in my mind that they should pursue legal action against these housing associations, and it’s time housing associations learned to act upon the signs highlighted from their monitoring as soon as possible in order to protect their employees. “