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Legal issues relating to Vibration injuries in the UK

How to identify whether a claim can be made for Vibration injuries or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

There are two different scales used by doctors to assess the severity of the HAVs suffered by the particular person.

These are the Taylor and Pelmear Scale and the Stockholm Workshop Scale.  The doctor assesses such matters as how frequently the fingers go white, the number of fingers effected, whether it is only the finger tips effected or the whole finger suffers the problems of pins and needles or whiteness, etc.

Any man or woman can suffer a vibration injury.

Some occupations associated with HAVs are assembly workers, autobody shop workers, construction workers, electricians, ground workers, mechanics, pipe fitters, polishers and welders.

It is  the regular use of a power tool or of machinery that causes vibration usually to the person’s hands (or whole body) that results in the vibration injury.

Typical power tools used are wrenches, drills, strimmers, grinders, hilte guns, screwdrivers and saws.

Since 1985 white finger disease (VWF) has been recognised as a prescribed disease (A11) for the purposes of entitlement to Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

Also since 1985, white finger disease of Stockholm Workshop Scale level 1 became a reportable disease under the Reporting Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR).

In recent years there has been a substantial improvement in standards of health and safety in the workplace, and this has been brought about by new regulations that have been effective in this country since 1993.

For example, the Provision and Use of Work equipment Regulations 1992 made it compulsory for employers to consider the suitability of work equipment supplied to its employees.   This has not always been the situation and this is illustrated by court decisions in claims for compensation made by workers who have suffered vibration white finger syndrome.

In a recent court case that concerned people who worked in a woodworking factory and used powered tools that caused vibration to their hands, the Court of Appeal had to decide on the date when employers in the woodworking industry should have known about the risk of powered hand tools causing vibration induced injuries to workers hands. The Court of Appeal decided that it was not until 1991/92 that employers in the woodworking industry should have known about the risk of injury to fingers and hands caused by vibration transmitted to workers hands from powered tools and taken action to prevent it.

On first glance the date of 1991/92 appears to be a surprisingly late date for the courts to hold that from this time onwards employers in the woodworking industry were under an obligation to take active steps to protect workers from the risk of injury caused by vibrating powered tools. However, the general levels of vibration caused by the powered tools in the particular case considered by the Court of Appeal were relatively low when compared with the vibration levels of tools used by workers in other industries.

If your employer has failed to take steps to reduce excessive noise in your working environment or provide protective equipment such as ear defenders etc –  you may be entitled to make a claim.

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