An employee of a motor company suffered a Hand Arm Vibration injury (HAVS) having used a range of vibrating tools over a 17 year period. The individual was diagnosed with early stage vibration white finger (VWF) approximately 4 years earlier and despite medical warnings his bodyshop workload increased along with his usage of vibrating machines and as a consequence his condition deteriorated. Within two years he was diagnosed as having HAVS Stage 3 in both hands and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) in both wrists.
Two Improvement Notices had been issued to the company in 2004, neither of which had been contested. A short while before the investigation process commenced the body shop closed. Subsequent tests from the tools used by the employee revealed that the employee’s daily usage had been around double (and often higher) the recommended exposure level set by the HSE.
The investigation led to a successful HSE prosecution. The company was fined £10,000 with costs of £ 28,000. The employee was awarded a large 5 figure settlement at an earlier civil hearing. The case was given significant media coverage.
Following the receipt of a RIDDOR report, an investigation was carried out by an HSE Occupational Health Inspector into a case of an employee at a motor company being exposed to vibration and contracting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
The company had considered its approach to health and safety matters as being exemplar and had not anticipated that enforcement action would follow on from the RIDDOR report; therefore an educative approach was set in train to support the necessary enforcement action.
The company had carried out some vibration measurements, but had not completed a suitable and sufficient risk assessment or established a programme of appropriate organisational and technical measures to reduce exposure to vibration to as low as is reasonably practicable. In addition it had not provided employees with adequate information and instruction.
An Improvement Notice was served requiring the completion of a suitable risk assessment; implementation of appropriate controls and provision of suitable information and instruction to employees. The company replaced tools with equipment of lower vibration magnitude, in some cases by up to 35% and introduced a tool maintenance programme. On discussing the impact of the Improvement Notice the body shop manager noted that changes implemented so far had already resulted in quality improvements, with a reduction of up to 25% in number of ‘touch ups’ and ‘re-dos’ required. It was expected that that further changes planned as a result of the Improvement Notice would result in further business benefits and efficiencies.