HAVS breaches jump by third, safety organisation warns

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INDUSTRY organisation Building Safety Group (BSG) has reported a 33% increase in the number of ‘hand arm vibration’ breaches recorded on construction sites.

The rise is based on over 42,000 independent site inspections conducted over a two-year period, comparing 2017 to 2018. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) comes from the use of hand-held power tools and can cause painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.

Exposing workers to the risk of HAVS can result in symptoms such as tingling, pins and needles, numbness and pain in the affected person’s hands.

The condition can affect sleep when it occurs at night and cause difficulties in gripping and holding things. Between 2008 and 2017 there were over 7,000 new claims for HAVs according to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).

BSG’s announcement comes on the back of a series of HSE ‘blitzes’ focused on HAVS in construction, with FFIs (fees for intervention) being imposed. In one case, contractor Balfour Beatty was fined £500,000 for HAVS breaches over several years.

Paul Kimpton, managing director of BSG commented, “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.

“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.”