Derby hand-arm vibration syndrome claim

HAVS is considered to exist if, after lengthy exposure to hand-transmitted vibration, involvement of the vascular and/or peripheral nervous system occurs, with or without musculoskeletal involvement.

Generally speaking an employer’s knowledge as to the possible damaging effects of operating hand-held power tools is indisputable from the mid-1970s.

Difficulties with diagnosis can arise , however, as the cause of the symptoms may be constitutional  , such as ‘Primary Raynaud’s Disease’ , rather than work-related and there is no objective test which establishes the existence of the syndrome. It is only when:

  • (a)     other potential medical causes of the symptoms have been excluded;
  • (b)     there is an appropriate work history involving regular exposure to hand-held vibratory tools; combined with
  • (c)     an appropriate description by the claimant of symptoms which are recognised as being consistent with the disease that a diagnosis of HAVS can properly be made.

Having established a date of knowledge and the diagnosis of the condition it remains necessary for the claimant to establish breach of duty. The first step is to assess both the time per day that an employee is exposed to vibration, together with the intensity of exposure produced by the tools being operated.

Once the action level of 2.8m/s2 has been exceeded, the the HSE 1994 guidance requires: (a) the implementation of medical surveillance; and (b) the introduction of control measures to reduce exposure to vibration, including: use of low vibration and damped tools; maintained equipment to ensure low vibration; consideration of the work process and methods to reduce use of vibrating tools (eg substitution with non-vibrating tools); rotation of jobs; education on techniques for holding tools.

Where exposure is lower than this the duty is to warn and educate employees on the characteristic signs of first symptoms and the need to report such symptoms.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations came into force on 6 July 2005. The Regulations set a daily exposure limit value of 5m/s2 and a daily exposure action value of 2.5m/s2. There is a duty to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk and identify the measures needed to meet the requirements of the Regulations (reg 5); elimination or, where elimination is not reasonably practicable, reduction of exposure to vibration to as low a level as is reasonably practicable (reg 6(1)); health surveillance (reg 7); the provision of suitable and sufficient information, instruction and training where risk assessment indicates there is a risk to health or where employees are likely to be exposed to vibration above the exposure action value (reg 8).

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