Plant operatives top hand-arm vibration syndrome risk list

Nearly 659,000 British construction workers could be at risk of developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), according to new estimates.

Box 1: Occupations most at risk of HAVS

Plant operatives: 42,210 people

Plant mechanics: 40,280

Steel erectors/structural: 28,640

Civil engineering operatives: 63,020

Wood trade/interior fitters; 262,020

Floorers: 39,260

Electric trades and installation: 183,440

Total: 658,870

Source: Construction Skills Network

The figures from the Construction Skills Network, which ­provides market intelligence on the ­industry, have been analysed by ­vibration management specialist Reactec. It has broken down the figures into the specific occupations that it ­considers are most at risk from HAVS because of their use of vibration equipment.

The Medical Research Council has estimated that around 300,000 employees have advanced symptoms of HAVS, while more than a million users of hand-held or hand-guided power tools are at increased risk of the disease because they are exposed to HAVS above the action level set by the Health and Safety Executive.

It has identified plant operatives and mechanics as the occupations potentially most at risk of HAVS (see box).

The company has also cited the example of GKN Aerospace, which in March was fined £26,800 and ordered to pay costs of £8,256 after admitting four breaches of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 between July 2005 and December 2011.

Stewart McNaughton, health and safety consultant at Reactec, said: “The number of construction operatives using vibration tools could pose a real problem to both employers and employees if not managed effectively. It is vital that employers ensure they are effectively monitoring and managing exposure to ­vibration to avoid the costly consequences of over-exposure, such as claims and employee absences, and also to avoid unnecessary health and safety and tool expenditure commonly associated with paper-based HAVS monitoring.”

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