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A Bolton limousine and hearse manufacturer has been heavily fined after seven employees developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) over a six and a half year period.
Woodall Nicholson was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after a number of workers at the firm were diagnosed by doctors as having HAVS due to daily use of handheld equipment including grinders, saws and pneumatic tools.
Trafford Magistrates Court heard that the men, aged between 25 and 62, developed the disorder while working on the plant in Westhoughton, Greater Manchester, between July 2005 and December 2011.
Symptoms include numbness, tingling in fingers, loss of strength in hands, pain in fingertips and a white complexion at the end of digits. The condition is lifelong and incurable.
After hearing about alleged poor practice at the firm, the HSE launched an investigation and found that staff were not given enough breaks when using the high-impact tools.
The authority concluded that not enough was done to reduce the risk of exposure to HAVS and this has caused long-term health problems for those involved.
Trafford Magistrates Court was told than an improvement notice, which requires changes to working practices, was issued to Woodall Nicholson and the firm has now given workers lower-impact tools that will reduce the incidence of HAVS.
However, Woodall Nicholson was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £13,485 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to a breach of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Mike Lisle said: "Some of the workers now have difficulty picking up small objects, such as screws and nails, which is essential for the job they do.
"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."
According to the HSE, almost two million people in the UK work in conditions where they are at risk of developing HAVS.
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