HSE fine fires HAVs warning…

Balfour Beatty hit with half a million pound penalty.

Balfour Beatty has been fined £500,000 after workers in its utilities business were put at risk of developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) over a nine-year period.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive found that between 2002 and 2011 Balfour Beatty failed to minimise the use of handheld power tools, such as hydraulic breakers and floor saws, or assess and monitor their workers’ exposure to HAVS.

The HSE said the company also failed to report to the authorities a number of cases of employees being diagnosed with HAVS.

HAVS, also known as white finger, is a permanent condition that affects the nerves and blood vessels in the hands, which can make it hard to grip small objects.

The ruling came at a hearing at Sheffield Crown Court, which heard that workers at the company’s sites were regularly exposed to hand-arm vibration while operating tools.

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Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995.

The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £195,000.

HSE inspector Christine Mellor said: ”The company failed to heed warnings. Early health surveillance detected ill health but still this was not acted upon to prevent ongoing exposure.

“This is a particularly serious case because of the extent and duration of failures. The breaches were repeated over several years and this resulted in persistent poor compliance.”

A spokesman for Balfour Beatty said: “The shortcomings in processes identified in this case took place many years ago and were addressed prior to the start of the investigation by the HSE.

”The judge acknowledged both this and that there was no evidence of anyone coming to harm as a result.

“Balfour Beatty takes its responsibilities both for Health and Safety extremely seriously.”

The Control of Vibration a Work Regulation was introduced in 2005.

As part of Balfour Beatty’s Zero Harm health and safety plan, the company said it is working to prevent any new cases of HAVS.