Infrastructure and construction firm, Balfour Beatty was recently fined for the equivalent of more than $650,000 for subjecting workers to the risk of a preventable and debilitating chronic condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).
Following a Health and Safety Executive investigation, Balfour Beatty was found to be negligent in the mitigation of harmful vibration exposure for workers between 2002 and 2011. Employees of the multinational building company were subjected to excessive vibration when operating hydraulic breakers, floor saws, and other power tools without adequate monitoring of effects. The company was also found to have failed to report instances of HVAS diagnoses among employees.
There are many reasons why employers and employees should take HVAS seriously, and for more than just the risk of incurring substantial fines and a stained reputation. Reputability in employee wellbeing is important to attracting new job candidates in an industry that struggles to work around a shrinking hiring pool and widening skills gap.
HVAS can be a major detriment when it comes to completing tasks on the job and in daily life. Those affected have difficulty gripping small objects, operating tools, and carrying out actions that require dexterity. The condition is most likely to occur when an individual regularly operates equipment that vibrates. This includes power hand tools, as well as heavy machinery on which a worker may sit or ride, such as a forklift or other industrial vehicle. As the limbs or body constantly vibrates, nerves and blood vessels are affected over time.
When workers are affected by this condition they are unable to safely and reliably do their jobs, which could amount to even greater risks on job sites and production floors. This is why employers are advised to maintain proper safety standards. Monitoring vibration levels and protecting workers from resulting effects is an important part of doing so.
There are many different vibration control and isolation products that can be used to mitigate exposure. When operating mechanical hand tools that vibrate, workers should take periodic breaks and utilize vibrating dampening gloves and other wearable equipment. In addition to ensuring that machinery is properly maintained and operating as smoothly as possible, vibrating isolating mounts and pads can make workplaces safer without compromising productivity or efficiency. Isolation Technologies provides examples of relatively low-cost solutions for controlling vibration and tremor in industrial environments.
Attentive monitoring of conditions and small investments to ensure worker safety and wellbeing can go far, while also helping companies avoid situations that tarnish their reputation and hinder their bottom line.