A worker whose job involved the regular and frequent use of vibrating tools has won an out-of-court settlement after his hands were permanently damaged as a result.
The unnamed 53-year-old man worked for steel maker Corus at its plant in Rotherham. He operated hand-held vibrating power tools, such as air spanners, drills and needle guns. Shortly before taking early retirement, he noticed problems with his hands and was diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively referred to as HAVS, as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
HAVS can cause numbness in the fingers, aches and pains in the hands and arms and also discolouration of the skin. It is a relatively common problem amongst those exposed to excessive vibration over many years.
The worker described the symptoms as feeling as though he is wearing four pairs of gloves, which makes it difficult for him to carry out intricate tasks. He decided to bring a claim against his former employers as they had never warned him that the repeated use of vibrating machinery could cause a permanent injury.
Although it did not accept liability for the claim, Corus agreed an out-of-court settlement of £7,500.
Employers have a duty to protect their workers from foreseeable risks. In the case of vibrating tools, they are under a specific duty to monitor their use in order to protect against harmful levels of exposure. See the Health & Safety Executive website for further information.