Insider Media Ltd reports the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Vector Aerospace International Ltd, of Gosport, after an investigation found that workers were being diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). In total, 13 cases emerged of employees who had worked at the same site for between 5 and 45 years. Two of them were diagnosed at stage three – showing the most severe and painful symptoms.
The company was fined a total of £50,000 and ordered to pay £2,514 in costs after admitting three charges under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
Vector Aerospace, which employs 1,100 at Gosport, had surveyed the tools being used by workers in 2007. At that stage, it had taken the decision that no controls were needed, the HSE said. As a result, and despite later reviewing its risk assessment, that error was not identified and the recognised risks of vibration from the use of about 1,600 tools by 400 to 450 employees on the site was never controlled. The absence of mitigating measures for the workers led to some being exposed to vibration levels likely to have exceeded the legal limits.”
Lisa Gafarov, Personal Injury Specialist, for Verisona Law comments that Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome can be devastating for those it affects. The condition is caused by repeated and frequent use of hand-held vibrating tools - for example, power drills, chainsaws, or pneumatic drills. It may also be caused by holding or working with machinery that vibrates. Symptoms can include numbness, loss of feeling and/or tingling in one or more fingers. It can be mild and sometimes just affects the tips of the finger(s). Sometimes the condition can result in Raynaud’s phenomenon which comes in bouts or attacks triggered by cold weather or touching a cold object. The fingers may go white and cool due to small blood vessels narrowing, followed by them turning blue as the oxygen supply reduces, and then red sometimes causing pain as the vessels widen and blood supply increases again. Some people only develop bouts of uncomfortable, pale, cold fingers. Victims can suffer from muscular aches and pains. As the condition develops, numbness may become permanent, this leads to muscle weakness and wasting. In some cases, the symptoms develop months or years after finishing working with vibrating tools.
Verisona Law has extensive experience of dealing with this type of injury caused at work, and we can also provide employment advice where the victim is still working in the same environment. We provide all-encompassing protection for employees at such a vulnerable time.
Considering Vector Aerospace’s breach of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, the employee victims suffering from HAVS as a result of their work for the firm will be entitled to make civil claims for compensation in relation to the personal injuries they have sustained. The successful prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive forms a strong basis for proving liability in this instance. Such claims would also usually need to be supported by a medical report from a Consultant Rheumatologist specialising in such nerve conditions, linking the work with the vibrating tools as the cause. The level of compensation for HAVS injuries varies depending upon the severity of the condition. Persisting bilateral symptoms in a younger person which interfere significantly with daily life and lead to a change in employment may attract awards for pain and suffering in excess of £25,000. Careful attention will also need to be given to the financial losses incurred as a result of the condition which can be claimed in addition, including medical costs, travel expenses, care provided by family/friends, and loss of earnings/impact on employability.
Victims of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome should seek legal advice about civil compensation claims without delay as there are strict deadlines for bringing such claims. Many cases can be dealt with on a no win no fee basis. If you have previously worked with vibrating tools or equipment in your employment and you are concerned about hand or arm symptoms you have developed, do not hesitate to contact our personal injury team for support and advice.