Local authority fined over HAVS breaches

A local authority has been fined £50,000 after 15 employees working in a highways department developed Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), as a result of the Council’s failure to control exposure to vibration.

What is HAVS?

HAVS is a serious and disabling condition caused by exposure of the hands and arms to vibration when using handheld tools.  It can cause a permanent and painful numbness and tingling in the hands and arms, as well as painful joints and muscle weakening.   

In February 2019 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was notified about a case of HAVS by the local authority.  Upon investigation, it was found that there had been breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and an Improvement Notice was served requiring better control of the risk of exposure to vibration.   

After the Improvement Notice had been served, the local authority reviewed all their health surveillance records and found earlier cases that had not been reported under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), as is required.  In total, a further 10 cases of vibration-related ill-health were uncovered and reported late.  Four more cases were also filed, although these were on time.  

A further investigation by the HSE found that there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the authority to ensure that workers accurately recorded their levels of exposure to vibration.  Health surveillance records had not been acted upon promptly, to reduce exposure levels when symptoms were recorded.  Also, risk assessments were not adequate for controlling the level of exposure.   

The price to pay

In May 2022 at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, the local authority pleaded guilty to breaches of section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and Regulation 8 of the RIDDOR regulations 2013, fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366. 

Although HAVS is a potentially serious condition, it can be easily controlled and prevented. One important aspect of this is measuring the exposure levels of workers.   

Aegis has the equipment to carry out these assessments, delivered by experienced staff who can advise organisations on how to prevent HAVS.  

For more information on how we can support your workforce in meeting health and safety requirements and becoming a safer place to work, get in touch with our team of experts today.