HAVS diagnosis leads to sentencing for firm and director
A rock drilling and cliff stabilisation firm and its director have been sentences after multiple workers were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome.
Three employees of Celtic Rock Services Limited developed and reported symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), but no action was taken. The workers regularly used tools such as rock drills and jack hammers for cliff stabilisation work, which was often carried out while abseiling down a cliff face.
The workers reported symptoms such as pins and needles and aching hands which, in one case, had been going in since 2000. However, not until 2016 was an occupational nurse employed and the problem identified.
An HSE investigation discovered that the risk assessment did not identify the actual exposure to vibration and had used out of date vibration data. It also uncovered that there was no health surveillance in place until 2016 and employees were not made aware of HAVS and its symptoms. When symptoms were reported, the company had failed to take action.
Celtic Rock Services Limited of Bossell Road, Buckfastleigh, Devon pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. The company has been fined £36,667 and ordered to pay costs of £3,560.
Alwyn Griffith Hughes Thomas, Director of the company, also of Bossell Road, Buckfastleigh, Devon pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He has been given a 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for one year, a 12-week curfew and ordered to pay costs of £3,560.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Caroline Penwill said: “This was a case of the company and its director completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS risk assessment and health surveillance.
“If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor workers health and the employees’ conditions would not have been allowed to develop, one of which was to a severe, life altering stage.”