Balfour Beatty fined £500,000 for white finger exposure

Grant Prior 6 years ago
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Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd has been fined £500,000 after exposing workers to Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) over a nine-year period.

An HSE investigation found that workers at the company were exposed to the risk of hand-arm vibration between 2002 and 2011.

HAVS is a permanent condition affecting the nerves and blood vessels of the hand.

It is also known as white finger and can cause pain, tingling and numbness, making it difficult to carry out everyday tasks.

The condition can render a worker disabled, affecting their chances of employment.

Sheffield Crown Court heard that workers at the company’s sites were regularly exposed to hand-arm vibration while operating hand-held power tools such as hydraulic breakers and floor saws.

An HSE investigation found that the company failed in its legal duty to ensure the risks to workers who used these tools was kept to as low a level as reasonably practicable.

Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd. failed to assess the risk to workers’ health, failed to put in place and monitor suitable risk control measures and failed to put in place a suitable system of health surveillance.

The company also failed to report to the enforcing authorities a significant number of cases of employees diagnosed with HAVS as was legally required.

Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd of Sheffield pleaded guilty to safety breaches and was fined £500,000 and was ordered to pay costs of £195,000.

A Balfour Beatty spokesperson 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.”

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Christine Mellor said: “This case was about failing to protect workers. Exposure to hand-arm vibration is a well-known risk which Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions Ltd. failed to adequately control.

“The company failed to heed warnings. Early health surveillance detected ill health but still this was not acted upon to prevent on-going 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.”

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