The Risk of Vibration Injuries in the Motor Industry – Client Case Study
The motor industry of the UK is well known across the world with car makers such as Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Jaguar dominating successful entrepreneur’s driveways and car enthusiasts alike. However little is known about the processes and different roles it takes to build some of these powerhouses of the road.
Recently Roberts Jackson was involved in a case where our client was employed for a specialist role within a car factory. He was one of four people employed and trusted to carry out the specific job which entailed work on the engines of the cars. Due to the nature of the work he was required to operate a hand held tool known as a grinder which are typically used to produce a smooth or flat finish to bits of metal. Grinders are notorious for producing a lot of vibration that then travels through the operator’s hands, wrists and arms and can lead to debilitating conditions.
Our client was operating grinders for a minimum of two hours a day without being safeguarded by his employer. Usually employers are expected to monitor the use of vibratory tools and provide an adequate number of breaks to employees operating the tools. Employers can also consider providing their employees with other tools which can do the same job but emit a lower level of vibration. Due to the defendant’s failure to do this and our client’s level of exposure he developed a condition known as Vibration Induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
What is Vibration Induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a condition that occurs in the wrist and can be brought on by repetitive tasks or, like in this case, excessive exposure to vibration. There are also more natural ways of contracting carpal tunnel syndrome including obesity, pregnancy or certain types of medication.
In short, the condition causes pain and lack of movement in the hand and wrist due to compression of the median nerve found in the wrist. Swelling in and around the tendons that run through the wrist and into the hands and fingers are usually the cause for the compression of the nerve.
In the case of vibration induced carpal tunnel, the vibrations produced by certain pieces of equipment can cause the tissues inside the nerve tunnel to become swollen increasing the pressure on the median nerve. 
Solicitor, Nimish Patel, ran the client’s case to a successful conclusion however it was not without its difficulties as he explains here:
“The defendants in this particular case had failed to carry out inspections on the equipment between 1992 and 2007 which is certainly not advisable. They had also failed to carry out a specific risk assessment on the job role that our client was tasked to do and had just covered the working environment as whole.
We would logically argue that every individual role needs to be assessed separately and not covered by a general risk assessment.
I think the determining factors in this case were A) The increase in workload experienced by our client due to working alone once his 3 other colleagues retired and B) The employer failed to consider the appropriate assessment for the different jobs in the factory.”
The increase in workload found in this case is not uncommon and Roberts Jackson Solicitors encounters this often when evaluating Vibration injury cases. The increase can be considered as a “trigger” for a certain condition such as carpal tunnel or vibration white finger. Employers may protect their employees initially, however, without warning or notice they can increase workers hours, duties or daily tasks which breach health and safety standards and in turn cause these conditions to develop.
Our client in this particular case enjoyed many tasks outside work that required the use of his hands and wrists and was particular enthusiastic to carry out DIY repairs on his own house. Since the condition developed he has experienced a lack of dexterity in the hands and a complete lack of grip making it impossible for him to carry or use hand held tools anymore. It is not uncommon to find vibration injuries making even the most minor daily tasks difficult such as making cup of tea or fastening buttons on a shirt.
The occurrence of vibration induced injuries at work seems to be becoming more common. Recently Roberts Jackson Solicitors reported that two separate firms had been fined by the Health and Safety Executive  over £200,000 for causing both Vibration Carpal Tunnel and Vibration white finger. You can read this article here.
If you have been affected by a vibration injury or something else discussed in this case study please do not hesitate to get in touch with Roberts Jackson Solicitors. Our expert team of Vibration Injury solicitors, including Nimish Patel, can provide you with free legal advice and have years of experience running Vibration White Finger and Vibration Induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome cases to successful conclusions.
To get in touch call us today on our Freephone number: 0333 1 200 200 or alternatively fill in the contact form found on the right hand side of this page.
 Carpal tunnel syndrome – Causes http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/carpal-tunnel-syndrome/pages/causes.aspx
 Health and Safety Executive Website – http://www.hse.gov.uk/