Health And Safety Concerns In The Workplace Carry Big Risks

POSTED BY IN health and safety

Health and safety in the workplace is absolutely vital and firms of all shapes and sizes have to comply with the laws and regulations surrounding health and safety. While some people moan about health and safety going too far and negatively impacting on the work that a firm provides, there is no denying that it is vital that firms implement these rules and regulations. Employees have the right to work safely without exposing themselves to risk or injury which could impact on their life and ability to earn an income.

One firm that has failed to meet the required health and safety standards expected of them are Alexander Dennis, a national bus and coach building firm. The firm has recently been fined a sum of £100,000 while being ordered to pay costs of £18,643 in relation to the fact that they ignored a range of warnings about the dangers their employees faced when working with hand-held power tools.

The company had received warnings over a number of years with regards to this area while also ignoring a great number of complaints and specialist reports with respect to employees suffering pain, numbness, whiteness and discomfort in their fingers. These are all symptoms associated with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome.

The Crown Court in Sheffield heard of 9 employees of the firm at Plaxton’s, a depot for Alexander Denis which carries out repair, refurbishment and sales work, were diagnosed with HAVS back in 2012.

Any employee exposed to this level of risk is one too many

The HSE investigated the company and came across uncontrolled exposure to hand-arm transmitted vibration for up to 25 employees. There were no restrictions in place for the amount of time that an employee was allowed to utilise these tools.

There was also no system in place for the company to determine if the tools were worn out or old. It was found that one tool was 28 years old and many of the tools were operating at a poor standard, which meant that vibration was not being minimised. There were also findings that workers were not provided with information on how to stay safe and minimise the risk of vibration when working.

The use of equipment caused hand arm transmitted vibration and this can lead to a range of conditions which are effectively referred to as HAVS. This includes carpel tunnel syndrome and vibration white finger. Given that HAVS is a permanent condition which can have a serious impact on a person’s ability to earn a living, it is understandable why it is something that should be minimised in the workplace. People that suffer from this condition will often suffer numbness, pins and needles, a stabbing sensation and it can often lead to people losing dexterity and grip in their hands.

The HSE have intervened and the company has made improvements across the board. This has enabled the company to assess risks for their employees which has led to a better standard of tools being offered to employed. These tools are also maintained to a higher standard. The company has also implemented a higher standard of training which provides employees with a better level of understanding on how to protect themselves. The company is now also offering regular health checks to their employees, which will hopefully spot any early or warning signs of disease.

Firms need to improve the way that they operate

Alexander Dennis, who was trading as Plaxton of North Anston, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The judge was scathing in the description of the company’s failings and said that the firm was highly culpable in their inability and failure to follow the warnings and advice that was offered to them.

Christine Mellor is an Inspector for HSE and she said; “Alexander Dennis continually ignored their employees’ symptoms which showed they were suffering from the effects of vibration caused by the extensive use of a variety of hand-held power tools – sanders, drills, grinders etc. It failed to heed recommendations from consultants they had engaged to assist in managing the health risks to employees, including the advice from occupational health professionals. At the same time, the company was fully aware that successful civil claims had been brought by employees. Despite all this, Alexander Dennis continued to expose employees to an uncontrolled risk. The risks associated with the use of hand-held power tools and of developing HAVS and carpel tunnel syndrome are well recognised in the industry. There has been written guidance from HSE since 1994 and specific regulations setting out the duties of employers since 2005. There can be no excuse for the company’s reckless disregard for their employees’ health HAVS is a serious, permanent condition which frequently has lifelong consequences.”

Given the serious nature of many health and safety allegations, there is a need for firms facing this sort of allegation to defend themselves in the most effective manner. This means calling on the best standard of solicitor firm with strong experience with respect to health and safety cases.

Andrew Reilly is a freelance writer with a focus on news stories and consumer interest articles. He has been writing professionally for 9 years but has been writing for as long as he can care to remember. When Andrew isn’t sat behind a laptop or researching a story, he will be found watching a gig or a game of football.