Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: Know your responsibilities

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Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome: You could be fined £400,000 for ignoring the risks

Two companies have recently been issues with large fines over failing to meet the responsibilities and requirements to protect their employees from HAVS (Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome).

Despite the Control of Vibration at work regulation being in force since the 6th July 2005, two-thirds of Stone Masonry RIDDOR reports directly related to this condition, forcing HSE to take action and address the issue of companies within the stone industry falling short of their responsibilities.

What is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome?

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is a painful and disabling disorder caused by vibration injuries. These injuries are either Neurological, Vascular or Musculoskeletal and can involve the blood vessels, nerves and joints.

A neurological injury can result in a high level of disability, seriously reducing the hand function causing the sufferer to struggle with everyday tasks.

Vascular injuries affect the blood vessels in the hands and fingers which can trigger episodes of whitening and spasm, usually brought on by the cold. Musculoskeletal injuries can result in impaired grip strength, reduced mobility and pain in the arm and hand area.

HAVS can affect all stone fabricators who are using power tools, particularly using them incorrectly, unless they take significant action to reduce the vibration risk.

This condition is totally preventable however once the damage is done, it is unfortunately permanent.

What are your legal responsibilities when it comes to HAVS?

As an employer, you are directly responsible for ensuring you take suitable assessments and health surveillance of your employees and take action to reduce the risk of developing this syndrome. Failure to do this could leave you liable to large fines and put your workforce at risk.

An employer of any workforce within the stone industry that is using power tools should take immediate action to address these crucial points:

    • Assess the vibration risk.
    • Take action to reduce the risk.
    • Make sure the legal limit on vibration exposure is not exceeded.
    • Provide information and training to employees on the health risks, early signs to look out for and the measures you have put in place to protect them.
    • Carry out regular health checks on at-risk employees.
    • Consult company safety representative on proposals.
    • Keep up to date records of your assessments, actions and health checks.
    • Review and update regularly.

For more information on HAVS, and your legal responsibilities, please visit the HSE: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/regulations.htm