Saint-Gobain Construction Products UK has been fined £500,000 for exposing its workers to vibration risks.

The building materials giant was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive after a number of employees were diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

The three employees used tools such as hand grinders, air chisels, spindle grinders, and earlier on in their employment, jackhammers to finish cast iron drainage products.

One of them had been using vibrating tools at the company’s Telford foundry for 27 years.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Magistrates’ Court was told that despite the 2016 diagnosis, one of the workers continued working with vibrating tools, without effective measures to control the risk.

An HSE investigation found that until 19 December 2017, the vibration risk assessment did not identify each employee’s daily exposure to vibration and did not measure cumulative exposures of using different vibrating tools throughout a shift.

‘THIS WAS AN ESTABLISHED MULTINATIONAL COMPANY THAT HAD THE RESOURCES TO PROTECT ITS WORKERS FROM THE EFFECTS OF EXCESSIVE VIBRATION, BUT FAILED TO DO SO OVER A LONG PERIOD OF TIME’

Investigators also told the court there was inadequate health surveillance in place and employees were not made aware of HAVS and its symptoms. Despite health surveillance notifying the company of a HAVS diagnosis, the company failed to take effective action to adjust the affected worker’s job, meaning staff continued to be exposed to excessive vibration.

‘This was an established multinational company that had the resources to protect its workers from the effects of excessive vibration, but failed to do so over a long period of time,’ said HSE inspector Andrew Johnson.
‘All employers have a duty to provide effective measures to ensure the health of their staff is not seriously or permanently harmed by the work they are asked to do.’

The materials division of French glazing giant Saint-Gobain, which had a turnover of £777 million last year, admitted breaching section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. It was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9453.