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300,000 UK workers affected by vibration white finger says HSE

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55 year old Keith Rowley has been awarded a £10,000 out of court settlement by his employer, General Kinematics Ltd, after his hands were left permanently damaged by his use of vibrating tools in his work as a fitter.

Mr Rowley suffered the debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), also known as vibration white finger. He now endures pain in his hands and has to wear heated gloves during cold weather.

HAVS affects many of those who operate hand-held vibrating power tools over a prolonged period. Common problems include numbness, aches and pains in the arms, hands and fingers. Apart from rendering some sufferers unable to continue in their profession, HAVS can also affect everyday life and make even the most straightforward tasks difficult.

Mr Rowley, who still works for the same company, said: “I first noticed a problem with my hands six years ago. Now they turn white and become painful in cold weather and I have to wear heated gloves. I’ve worked for General Kinematics for 12 years and during that time I’ve used vibrating tools on a daily basis.”

Andrea Austin, legal administrator at Mr Rowley’s union GMB said: “Under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 employers are required to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk to health and safety to their employees arising from exposure to vibration at work.”

Vibration white finger was officially listed as a prescribed condition in the UK in 1985 and since then, over £100million in compensation has been paid to victims. Tens of thousands of workers are affected every year and around two million are exposed to the hazards that lead to HAVs every day.

Diggers, power tools and the like, when used daily over a prolonged period, can affect nerves, muscles, joints and blood vessels in the arms and hands. Some victims can even lose fingers.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations were introduced in 2005 to set guidelines as to what is acceptable where exposure is concerned. It is currently estimated that tens of millions of pounds are lost each year in the industry sectors which use vibrating tools due to compensation claims, fines and lost working days. Land Rover was recently fined over £60,000 because they failed to manage the risks of power tools. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says there could be almost 300,000 vibration white finger sufferers in the UK.

It is important, when contemplating legal action against an employer for HAVS, to engage the services of a specialist personal injury solicitor with expertise in this particular area. They will leave no stone unturned in ensuring a victim is properly compensated for their suffering and loss of amenity.

Stephensons’ occupational injury specialists have long term experience in pursuing and winning HAVS and vibration white finger cases. To discuss your case directly with a knowledgeable personal injury expert, call 01616 966 229.

By personal injury solicitor and Stephensons’ Partner, Kate Sweeney