Employers owe a duty of care to their employees. Depending upon the industry, some employers should have been aware of the risks associated with the use of vibrating tools from the mid-1970s, and they should therefore have been taking steps to ensure that exposure was properly controlled. During the 1980s more information became available in relation to the risks associated with excessive vibration exposure and as a result most employers from this time should have been taking steps to protect their workforce. A failure by the employer to do so could amount to negligence.
The guidance available to employers in relation to the risks associated with vibration exposure culminated in the introduction of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. However it is important to note that even before the Regulations were introduced employers had a duty to take steps to protect their workforce from the risks of vibration exposure.
The Regulations require employers to:
■ make sure that risks from vibration are controlled
■ undertake suitable and sufficient risk assessments
■ provide information, instruction and training to employees on the risk and the actions being taken to control risk
■ provide suitable health surveillance.
For employers, part of performing their duty of care is to establish adequate working conditions. For example:
- Providing employees with regular breaks
- Limiting workers’ daily use of vibrating tools
How can employers control the risks from HAVS?
Employers can reduce vibration exposure by reducing one or both of:
■ the vibration transmitted to the hand; and
■ the time spent holding vibrating equipment or machinery
Employers are also supposed to:
- Warn about vibration related conditions and early signs and symptoms
- Supply all those using hand-held vibrating tools with appropriate safety equipment
- Provide training on correct handling and use of tools, and selecting the right tools for the task
If your work posed a risk of injury an employer also should have established a health surveillance scheme to seek to prevent or diagnose any health effect linked with exposure to vibration.