Council fined after road workers developed debilitating nerve disease

Lancashire County Council has been fined £50,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after several workers carrying out work in the motorway service developed a debilitating nerve condition due to the inability to control vibration exposure.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the council ignored an improvement notice over vibration issues in 2019. However, a further 10 cases were uncovered as the council felt it had failed to adequately monitor vibration issues. risks.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard that in February 2019 the HSE received a RIDDOR [reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations 2013] report from Lancashire County Council, relating to the diagnosis of a case of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAV).

A notice of improvement was served on the board in July 2019 requiring it to improve its HAV control. However, subsequently 10 other cases of vibration-related health issues, unrelated to the RIDDOR report, were discovered and belatedly reported. Four other reports were also filed, but these were on time.

Regular use of vibrating tools causes the painful and debilitating disorder which, in this case, has left employees with nerve damage to their hands and arms, making daily tasks and hobbies difficult or impossible.

An investigation by the HSE found there had been insufficient supervision and monitoring by the council to ensure operators accurately recorded their vibration exposure levels.

The HSE said health surveillance records were not acted upon quickly to reduce or stop exposure levels when symptoms were reported. Furthermore, the risk assessments were not sufficient to control the degree of operator exposure, and no practices had been implemented to prevent overexposure.

If these measures had been in place, the total of 15 incidences of health problems reported by the VHA could have been avoided. It was also found that the board had not promptly sent reports of the various diagnoses to the HSE as required by RIDDOR regulations.

Lancashire County Council of County Hall, Fishergate, Preston, pleaded guilty to breaches of Sections 2(1) and 3(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety etc Act 1974. and Rule 8 of the 2013 RIDDOR Rules. Counsel was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366.78.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Jennifer French said: ‘HAV can be a serious and sometimes disabling condition that is irreversible.

“All employers have a duty to take effective action to ensure that the health of their staff is not seriously or permanently damaged by the work required of them. HSE is committed to thoroughly investigating companies that fail to meet their obligations and will take legal action if necessary.

Alice F. Ponder