Company fined £200,000 for failing to protect workers from HAVS

The two staff members at Ross & Catherall Limited – a company that manufactures and supplies metal bars for the aerospace and automotive industries – worked at the firm’s Forge Lane site in Sheffield in 2019.

The two employees carried out a variety of tasks, which included the use of vibrating tools, throughout the company’s manufacturing process. Both operators used these tools for extended periods of time, over a number of years, without adequate systems in place to control their exposure to vibration.

Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS can lead to the loss of strength in the hands as well as tingling and numbness in the fingers – both of which can affect the ability to do work safely.

The HSE investigation found there was no hand-arm vibration risk assessment in place to identify what level of vibration the operators were exposed to. There were also no control measures in place to reduce exposure levels, with reasonably practicable measures only being implemented following HSE’s intervention.  Health surveillance was also inadequate. This was not carried out annually and there was no initial health surveillance assessment for new operators.

Ross & Catherall Limited, of Bretby Business Park, Ashby Road, Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay £7605.37 in costs at Derby Magistrates’ Court on 17 July 2023.

HSE inspector Lindsay Bentley said, “Those in control of work have a responsibility to assess the risk from exposure to vibration, put in controls to reduce this risk and ensure that health surveillance is adequate to identify symptoms in a timely manner. HAVS can be a life-changing condition which impacts all aspects of your life. Prevention of vibration damage is key and there is plenty of guidance available for employers to help them protect their employees’ health on the HSE website.”

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