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.
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.
Nick Warburton is deputy editor of IOSH Magazine