Bolton firm fined £23,000 after seven employees struck down by incurable ‘white finger’ syndrome

By Steven Brown

A Bolton limousine and hearse manufacturer has been fined a staggering £23,000 last week after several employees were diagnosed with painful muscle injury hand arm vibration syndrome.

Woodall Nicholson Ltd was prosecuted on Friday by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after seven employees were diagnosed with the industrial injury over 6 and a half years.

Hand Arm Vibration syndrome is a result of daily, long term use of hand-held equipment which constantly vibrate such as grinders, saws and pneumatic tools which affects  blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and joints, of the hand, wrist, and arm.

HSE Inspector Mike Lisle said: “Some of the workers now have difficultly picking up small objects, such as screws and nails, which is essential for the job they do.

“They will also suffer some level of pain in their hands for the rest of their lives.”

Between July 2005 and December 2011, the men, aged from 25 to 62, who were working in the plant on Wigan Road in Westhoughton, were all diagnosed.

Through investigation, HSE found that Woodall Nicholson Ltd failed to reduce the risk of developing the condition to the lowest possible percentage.

Inspector Lisle added: “The risks of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome are well known in the manufacturing industry and employers have a legal duty to make sure the exposure of workers to vibrating equipment is kept as low as possible.”

Symptoms include tingling and numbness, not being able to feel things with their fingers and also a loss of strength in their hands.

The syndrome also known as white finger is unfortunately an incurable condition which the employees will have to deal with for the rest of their lives.

HSE had issued an Improvement Notice which required the company to make certain changes after being made aware of the workers conditions.

After pleading guilty to a breach of the Condition of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, Woodall Nicholson Ltd was fined £10,000.

The manufacturing company was also ordered to pay a gigantic sum of £13,485 in prosecution costs.

Inspector Lisle said: “Sadly employees at Woodall Nicholson regularly used high-level vibrating equipment over several years that was badly maintained, with few controls in place over its use.

“This made it almost evitable that they would develop the condition.”

The manufacturing company has now introduced measures including buying lower-level vibrating tools and decreasing the amount of time spent using them.

It has been reported that more than two million people in the UK are at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibrating Syndrome due to bad working conditions.

For more information on preventing the condition please click here.

Picture courtesy of Ian Britton, with thanks.

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