Company and director prosecuted for HAVS failings

Celtic Rock Services Ltd and director sentenced after workers diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome

CELTIC Rock Services Ltd, who provide specialized services in rock drilling, cliff stabilization, and rock anchors, and their director have been sentenced after a number of workers were diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

Plymouth Magistrates’ Court heard how three employees had developed and reported symptoms of HAVS but no action was taken. The employees used tools such as rock drills and jackhammers for cliff stabilization work, which is often carried out by abseiling down a cliff and using the tools horizontally while working from ropes.

The affected persons began to experience symptoms such as pins and needles and aching hands, in one case since 2000. An occupational nurse was employed in 2016 and the HAVS problem was identified.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the risk assessment did not identify the actual exposure to vibration and had used out-of-date vibration data. The investigation also found there was no health surveillance in place until 2016 and employees were not made aware of HAVS and its symptoms. When symptoms were reported, the company had failed to take action.

Celtic Rock Services, who pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, were fined £36,667 and ordered to pay costs of £3,560.

Company director Alwyn Griffith Hughes Thomas, director of the company pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was given a 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for one year, a 12-week curfew and ordered to pay costs of £3,560.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Caroline Penwill said: ‘This was a case of the company and its director completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS risk assessment and health surveillance.

‘If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, they would have ensured that they had the right systems in place to monitor workers’ health and the employees’ conditions would not have been allowed to develop, one of which was to a severe, life-altering stage.’

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