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Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

March 7, 2019

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hand arm vibration

Hand arm vibration breaches up a third on construction sites

The number of hand arm vibration breaches on British construction sites has risen by third in the last year, according to new figures from the Building Safety Group (BSG).

pneumatic-drillThe figures from the construction safety group show 33% year-on-year rise in the number of reported incidents, based on more than 42,000 independent site inspections between 2017 and 2018.

Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools, which can affect the nerves and joints.

Exposing workers to the risks of “Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome” (HAVS) can result in symptoms such as such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the affected person’s hands.

The condition can also affect sleep when it occurs at night and cause difficulties in gripping and holding things.

According to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) figures, there were more than 7,000 new claims for HAVS between 2008 and 2017.

In February, a housing association was been fined after failing to manage exposure to vibration, resulting in a diagnosis of HAVs for one of its employees.

Calico Homes Limited, of Croft Street, Burnley, pleaded guilty to breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.

It was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay costs of £4,335.24.

“Hand arm vibration can be a significant health risk wherever powered hand tools are used for prolonged lengths of time. And unfortunately, once the damage is done it is permanent,” said BSG Managing Director, Paul Kimpton.

“However, the good news is that HAVs is easily preventable. What construction companies need to do is find out what their workers’ exposure is likely to be as part of a vibration risk assessment.

“The HSE advises that the employer carries out a period of monitoring to understand how long workers use particular tools in a typical day or week. Once you know enough about the work to say what the exposure is likely to be and whether it is likely to exceed either the ‘Exposure Action’ or ‘Exposure Limit Value’, focus can shift to investigating, as well as taking practical steps to reduce the exposure and the risks.”

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Having worked at the sharp end of contracting in the NE and having worked very, very closely with the HSE on developing our HAVs management system including spending thousands on HAVI meters, we found that closing that particular part of our business was the only viable option. Main Contractors didn’t give a stuff about achieving safe levels as long as you hit program and were cheap, and we then found that Tier 4 guys we had previously ‘retired’ from vibratory tool work were leaving us to work for subbie gangs on an unlimited piece work basis. There’s a one-eyed mentality… Read more »