£30k fine for HAVS failures

A community housing association has been sentenced after it failed to effectively manage its employees’ exposure to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) over a prolonged period of time.

Between July 2010 and May 2015, employees of Tai Calon Community Housing Limited were routinely exposed to vibration in their day to day work. Following the company’s introduction of health surveillance in May 2015, a number of employees were diagnosed with HAVS which has side effects such as pain and loss of strength in the hands and has been known to cause distress and sleep disturbance.

The HSE’s investigation found Tai Calon had failed to:

  • adequately assess the risk to employees from the use of vibratory tools
  • implement adequate measures to reduce employees’ exposure to vibration
  • place employees under suitable health surveillance
  • provide employees with suitable information, instruction, and training.

Tai Calon Community Housing of The Rising Sun Industrial Estate, Blaina, was found guilty at Newport Magistrates’ Court of breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 and was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £2,789.25 in costs.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Paul Newton commented: “No one’s health should not be made worse by the work they do. In this case, if Tai Calon had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor its workers’ health.

“This prosecution highlights the health risks from using vibratory tools and the importance of employers having a health surveillance programme in place. Where vibratory tools are used, employers should monitor the health of employees using them and ensure appropriate systems are in place to manage and control the risk from vibration.”