HAVS and Health Surveillance Programmes: Breach of Duty Under s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

In this article, we report on an unreported Magistrates Court decision, where the defendant employer had ‘failed to effectively manage’ its employees’ exposure to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).[i]

Over the course of the hearing, the court heard that the defendant’s employees had been exposed to a daily vibration, between July of 2010 and May of 2015. In May 2015, the defendant introduced health surveillance and discovered that many of the employees had developed HAVS.

The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigations discovered that there were numerous failings, on behalf of the employer, to protect its employees. It had failed to:

  1. Adequately assess the risk to employees from the use of vibratory tools;
  2. Implement adequate measures to reduce employees’ exposure to vibration;
  3. Place employees under suitable health surveillance; and
  4. Provide employees with suitable information, instruction, and training.[ii]

The Court found the defendant employer in breach of s.2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was fined £30k and ordered to pay costs.

HSE inspector, Paul Newton, has since stated:

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.[iii]

 

[i] ‘Housing association fined £30k over Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome failings’ (4 April 2018 Local Government Lawyer) <http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=34770:2018-04-04-14-19-38&catid=1:latest-stories> accessed 5 April 2018

[ii] Ibid

[iii] Ibid