A housing association has been fined £100,000 for exposing maintenance workers to hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), caused by excessive use of power tools.
Cwmbran Magistrates’ Court heard how Charter Housing Association reported six cases of HAVS after launching a health surveillance programme in June 2015. The affected employees were all part of its maintenance team.
A subsequent investigation by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) found that the six workers’ conditions were likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the use of vibratory power tools at work. It was also found that staff in the maintenance and refurbishment departments at Charter Housing experienced significant exposure to hand arm vibration in their daily work.
The investigation also found that the company neither adequately planned its working methods nor trained or informed employees on the risks to their health. Furthermore, Charter Housing did not limit the duration or magnitude of exposure to vibration and failed to put in place suitable health surveillance to identify problems at an early stage.
Charter Housing Association Ltd (now part of Pobl Group Ltd) 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.
HSE inspector Joanne Carter said after the hearing: “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.”