BSG (Building Safety Group
), the UK’s largest construction safety group, has reported a 42% rise in the number of ‘Hand Arm Vibration’ non-compliances recorded through site inspections. The increase is based on over 20,000 independent inspections conducted during 2016, which compares the first six months with the second six months of the year.
Exposing workers to the risks of ‘Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome’ or HAVS can result in symptoms such as such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the affected persons’ hands. The condition can affect sleep when it occurs at night and cause difficulties in gripping and holding things. In 2015 there were 635 new HAVS related claims compared to 610 and 580 in 2014 and 2013 respectively. A recent case saw Thanet District Council fined £250,000 for not protecting workers’ health when a worker was left with permanent injuries after being diagnosed with the illness.
The number of ‘Noise’ related non-compliances has also increased, with a 33% rise in the number of infringements recorded. Noise at work can cause hearing damage that is permanent and disabling. This can be hearing loss that is gradual because of exposure to noise over time, but also damage caused by sudden, extremely loud noises. There were encouragingly however large drops for Dust and Fume (down 20%) and Manual Handling (down 11%) non-compliances, which both saw significant falls.
BSG’s announcement coincides with a series of recent HSE blitzes which have focused on these areas, frequently leading to FFI (Fees for Intervention) penalties being imposed.
Paul Kimpton, Managing Director at the Building Safety Group commented:
“Everyone controlling construction site work has ‘health’ and not just ‘safety’ responsibilities. Checking that working conditions are healthy before work begins is essential for safeguarding against the too often devastating impact of illnesses related to Occupational Health. This of course requires careful planning and organisation beginning with the implementation of ‘Health Surveillance’ to monitor workers who are exposed to risks such as HAVS and Noise. So it is critical that companies regularly review their systems and procedures to ensure they are compliant with UK legislation and that their workforces are protected.”
Non-compliance data is extracted from BSG’s ‘Non-compliance Reporting Index’ (NCRI). The index is used to support the only known real-time, reporting service which compiles high volume health & safety non-compliance data, collected for and on behalf of the construction industry through site inspections.
Over 20,000 site inspections were conducted in 2016. Approximately 25,000 non-compliances were recorded in total.
According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), employers of workers who frequently and regularly use tools or machinery, such as hand-held power tools, hand-guided powered equipment or powered machines which process hand-held materials. These all transmit vibration into the hands and arms of workers and may cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into workers’ hands and arms.
This can come from use of hand-held power tools (such as grinders or road breakers), hand-guided equipment (such as powered lawnmowers or pedestrian controlled floor saws) or by holding materials being worked by hand-fed machines (such as pedestal grinders or forge hammers).
The Vibration Regulations require employers to:
- make sure that risks from vibration are controlled;
- provide information, instruction and training to employees on the risk and the actions being taken to control risk; and provide suitable health surveillance.
The Vibration Regulations include an exposure action value (EAV) and an exposure limit value (ELV) based on a combination of the vibration at the grip point(s) on the equipment or work-piece and the time spent gripping it. The exposure action and limit values are:
- a daily EAV of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) that represents a clear risk requiring management; and
- a daily ELV of 5 m/s 2 A(8) that represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.
In order to prevent disability, the employer’s duties are to reduce the risks from vibration to the lowest level reasonably practicable and to reduce exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable if it is above the EAV. Exposures must not exceed the ELV. By complying with the Vibration Regulations disability from HAVS and vibration-related CTS will be prevented. Some people will develop early signs and symptoms of HAVS or CTS even at low exposures (for example, if they are susceptible to vibration injury and are regularly exposed to vibration at around the exposure action value, usually for some years). A health surveillance scheme should identify any harm early on, so appropriate action at this point will prevent disability.
Certain cases of HAVS and all cases of vibration-related CTS must be reported to HSE in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).
For powered hand-tools, regular and frequent use of modern, well-designed, well-maintained tools is likely to result in exposure at or above the EAV after:
- the use of a hammer action tool for about 15 minutes; or
- the use of non-hammer action tools for about one hour.
The exposure limit value is likely to be reached after:
- use of a hammer action tool for about one hour; or
- use of non-hammer action tools for about four hours.
It may be necessary to put a health surveillance programme in place.
This will help reduce the costs of managing ill health, lower absence rates and prevent and remove health risks arising in the workplace. External audits such as BSG inspections help give an independent assessment of management systems, whilst helping the business to meet its statutory responsibilities and maintain a healthy workforce. www.bsgltd.co.uk