Thanet District Council has been fined £250,000 after a grounds maintenance worker was left debilitated by hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Canterbury Crown Court heard how the council worker would typically spend up to six hours a day using a range of powered equipment including mowers and hedge cutters. He was not under any health surveillance or told how he should report his symptoms.
The council failed to control the exposure of its workers to HAVS and failed to educate them on the risks.
The Health & Safety Executive intervened after the worker’s GP diagnosed his symptoms. The council was issued with an improvement notice, but once they started to rectify the problem by implementing the appropriate health surveillance, a further 15 cases of ill-health relating to vibration exposure were identified and reported to HSE.
Thanet District Council pleaded guilty of breaching Regulations 6(2) and 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and was fined a total of £250,000 and was ordered to pay £18,325.84 in costs.
Although HAVS is preventable, once the damage is done it is permanent.
HSE principal inspector Mike Walters, said: “Hand arm vibration is a serious disease that impacts on people’s lives and impairs their ability to work. It is entirely preventable but once the damage is done it is permanent. Any business, council or employers can learn from this case. If you have workers who use heavy machinery you need to ensure you properly manage the risks from HAVS, control or eliminate the exposure and train them so they can identify the symptoms.
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