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Balfour Beatty repeatedly put workers at risk of developing HAVS

A division of infrastructure giant Balfour Beatty has been fined £500,000 after exposing workers to the risk of developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) for nine years.

Balfour Beatty repeatedly put workers at risk of developing HAVS
©iStock/Eraxion

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that between 2002 and 2011, Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions (BBUS) had regularly exposed workers to the debilitating condition while they were operating handheld power tools such as hydraulic breakers and floor saws. 

The HSE found that although the company had detected ill health early on, it did not act on this information to prevent ongoing exposure. BBUS failed to assess the risk to workers’ health, did not adopt control measures and had no suitable system of health surveillance in place. 

The contractor also failed to report to the enforcing authorities a significant number of HAVS cases, though this was a legal requirement. 

Balfour Beatty Utility Solutions, of Thorncliffe Park, Chapeltown, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to breaching s 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act at Sheffield Crown Court today. It also pleaded guilty to breaching reg 5 (1) of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. The company must also pay £195,000 in costs. 

HSE inspector Christine Mellor said: “The company failed to heed warnings. Early health surveillance detected ill health but still this was not acted upon to prevent ongoing exposure.”

In June’s leader interview, Balfour Beatty’s OSH head Heather Bryant, told IOSH Magazine that the company had set itself a target of zero new cases of HAVS by 2020. She added that the infrastructure and construction services group would only achieve this if it designed out the use of vibrating tools.

Bryant said that the standard controls such as job rotation were not adequate, and her team has challenged the business to come up with preventative measures further up the hierarchy of controls.

 

Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

Comments

  • When I was with BBUL the

    Permalink Submitted by Shaun Brennan on 19 June 2018 - 06:41 pm

    When I was with BBUL the health and safety was very good, in the last couple of years it’s all I seem to see BBUL fines for this prosecuted for that. What has gone so wrong in the last couple of years for them to hit the headlines constantly, maybe it’s time to look at the safety management team who undoubtedly are failing their employees by the sounds of it.

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