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December 23, 2003

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Production prioritised over RSI risk

In one of the first prosecutions of its kind, a car parts manufacturer has been fined for failing to control the risk of work-related upper limb disorder (WRULD).

Bristol Crown Court heard how Intier Automotive Interiors Ltd failed to implement a number of improvement measures to reduce the risks to some line workers, giving preference to production. The working procedure at the company Bristol plant involved four to five operators on a production line, riveting car dashboards to metal frames. The work was repetitive and involved awkward postures.
In the summer of 2001, the HSE received a complaint from a production-line worker about repetitive strain injury (RSI). The HSE asked Intier for a response, which acknowledged there was a problem and outlined a number of steps it would take to reduce the risks to workers. One measure included job rotation.
Six months later, the HSE visited the factory and found the company had implemented very little, so it began court proceedings. A prohibition notice was served in relation to any worker showing symptoms of WRULDs until they had been seen by an occupational health doctor.
The company pleaded guilty to breaching s2 of the HSWA 1974 by failing to protect its employees and was fined ?10,000 plus more than ?19,000 in costs.
Richard Matthews, for Intier, claimed that the company job rotation plans had been met with resistance on the shop floor and it had given production matters a higher importance. He also said that since the prohibition notice, Intier had spent ?30,000 on improving the ergonomics of its workplace practices.
Summing up, the judge said the risks of WRULDs were “obvious and well-known for over a decade”, and “the matter shouldn have taken the company by surprise”.
Investigating inspector Simon Chilcott told SHP that “in 1995, there were more than 4.2 million working days lost due to WRULDs” and pointed out that advice could be found in the HSE guidance document HSG60.
A spokesman for the RSI Association told SHP: “Often employees feel very nervous about reporting [such matters], so it is really good when people do and there is an end-result.”

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20 years ago

Still gob-smacked that regardless of known prevalence and debilitating consequences of WRULD’s & MSD’s on the work/life in 58% of DSE user operators, let alone costs of presenteeism and approx 20% lost productivity ( = 33 days absence/annum) the only prosecutions I have ever seen relate to sea side ‘rock-wrappers’ and now dashboard fixers !!!