Just about any type of vibrating tool, regardless of the size, can inflict injury if it is not handled the right way. Employers have a duty to ensure their employees are trained adequately and give them the appropriate protection from hazardous conditions.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case.
Employees who have sustained injuries from regular use of power tools or other vibrating equipment may wish to commence an industrial accident claim*.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a common issue among people working in the construction, mining, auto repair, engineering and agricultural sectors.
Common Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome Injuries
Injuries arising from vibration are a serious workplace issue and can result in severe and life changing disorders. Therefore, proper monitoring and decrease of exposure to vibration is paramount.
Hand-Arm vibration syndrome is typically encountered from the use of power tools. Such tools include hand drills, road breakers, chipping tools, jackhammers, concrete vibrators, polishers, sanders, needle guns, power chainsaws. As a result, injuries are primarily experienced by people working in construction, mining, auto repair and other engineering sectors.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is also known as Vibration White Finger (VWF), because of the white coloration of the victim’s fingers. The white coloration is caused by injury to the vascular, which results in restricted blood flow. Other than the changes in aesthetics, HAVS can cause a decrease in finger sensitivity, which begins in the tip. the condition can get worse if its left untreated.
In other cases, the victim can experience muscle damage, leading to a decrease in manual dexterity and grasp capability.
Some of the symptoms of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome are:
- Numbness in the fingers.
- A tingling feeling in the fingers.
- Loss of nerve sensitivity.
- Pain that disrupts sleep.
- Fingers turn white and swollen in cold conditions, and red and painful when warm.
- Picking up objects like nails becomes hard, because of the loss of grip strength in the hands.
Safety, Health & Welfare at Work
The primary legislation catering to the health and safety of workers is the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The Act defines the rights and duties of both employers and employees and mandates significant penalties for any breaches.
Under Part 2, Section 8 of the Act, the general duties of employers include:
1. To ensure workers’ safety, health and welfare at the workplace as far as is sensibly practicable.
2. Avert improper conduct or behaviour at the workplace that is likely to endanger workers.
3. Provide and upkeep a safe, hazard free workplace, offer safe access and exit means, and provide safe plants and equipment.
4. Ensure safety and prevention of risks resulting from article or substance use, or exposure to vibration, noise and physical agents.
5. Offer work systems that are well-planned, organized, conducted, maintained and updated appropriately.
6. Provide and adequately maintain workplace facilities and arrangements.
7. Give information, training and supervision.
8. Enforce safety, health and welfare measures required for the protection of workers, as established via risk assessments.
9. Provide protective gear and clothing where risks can’t be sufficiently controlled or fully eliminated.
10. Prepare and update emergency plans and processes.
11. Report any accidents and dangerous incidents to the relevant authority.
12. Obtain the services of a qualified individual for the sake of ensuring workplace safety and health.
13. Ensure workplace safety measures incorporate both permanent and temporary employees and that no implemented measures brings a financial cost to the workers.
Control of Vibration at Work by employers is also provided for by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007. The objective of the regulations is to protect employees from risks caused by vibrations. The regulations require employers to do the following:
1. Evaluate the vibration risks to workers.
2. Determine whether workers are exposed beyond the daily exposure limit value, and if that’s the case, take quick action to decrease the exposure.
3. Determine whether workers are exposed beyond the daily exposure action value, and if so:
- Enforce a control program to eliminate or lower their daily exposure
- Offer relevant health surveillance to workers who are continuously exposed above the exposure action value
4. Offer information and training on health risks and controls.
5. Maintain a record of possible risk assessments and control measures.
6. Review and revise the risk assessment regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
This is termed Form A which is simply the application form to the Injuries Board can be made by completing and submitting Form A with the application fee €45 or €90 and a medical report.
An injured party must apply to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board by filling out an Injuries Board Assessment Form A.
If any costs have been incurred, remember to attach receipts for any financial losses related to the personal injury* with the application to the Injuries Board. Include a copy of correspondence from the person you deem responsible for the injury, and send the application fee. The Board will write back to acknowledge receiving your documents and to give you your application number.
This is answered in the paragraphs above.
After you attend to the medical care, report the accident to the employer.
While you are considering your options, it is very helpful if you write out the details of the facts to keep in case you are thinking of taking a case.
Facts and evidence get lost and it is to the detriment of many people who subsequently decide to take cases when it doesn’t need to be an issue
Accident* at work claims must be submitted to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board for assessment. On average, claims made to PIAB are assessed within 9 months from the date the Board notifies the party who the claim is taken against.
If you are the cause of your own injury and no negligence arises, then in our opinion, it is imprudent to commence such an action.
If an employee does not report an accident to an employer, and subsequently decides to take a case, this can be problematic for the employee when the question is asked as to why it was not reported.
Is there provision for this in a clause in the Employment Contract ? or is there a custom and practice with the particular employer to do so ? must be assessed to answer this.
Employers should have Accident Report Forms which can be completed and the employer should be notified also with any means possible.
The Unfair Dismissals Acts govern this area of the law and if you are injured and operating under a disability, an employer who terminates the employment of an injured employee, may contravene the Equality Acts in addition to possibly contravening the Unfair Dismissals legislation.
Different employers may have different reporting procedures as some places of employment evidently operate under a higher risk of accidents occuring than others.
It depends on the individual case for many reasons, but we will give a general guide here.
Accident at work claims* must be submitted to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board for assessment. On average, claims made to PIAB are assessed within 9 months from the date the Board notifies the party who the claim is taken against.
If the case is dealt with and concluded at this point to the satisfaction of the parties, the entire timeframe could be 9 months to one year. If the matter is not dealt with by the Injuries Board, the injured party may have the option of proceeding to court to seek a Judgement from the court.
Some factors that may affect how long a case takes include:
- Once an application has been made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, it usually takes between 9 months to 1 year before it is concluded.
- If one of the parties does not agree to the Injuries Board making an assessment, the matter can proceed to court.
- If an assessment sum is not agreed to by one party, the matter can proceed to court.
- How long will the court case process take depends on various factors, such as, is the case straightforward for complex ?.
- Is there one injury or multiple injuries ?.
- What is the attitude of the defendant to the case ?.
- Has liability been admitted or is it contested ?.
- Has the injury stabilised ?.
- Has the treatment concluded ?. Has the injured parties doctors recommended further treatment ?. Detail of the further treatment is then required.
- What number of experts reports are required ?.
- Is it easy or difficult to obtain expert reports ?.
- Is it easy or difficult to obtain medical records ?.
- Have the legal pleadings concluded. In the High Court the defence must be provided to the injured parties solicitor within 8 weeks from the time the summons is served. This is not a long time, and in personal injury* cases one must proceed step by step in conjunction with the guidance of the doctor(s) assisting the injured party. Medical care can take time, recovery can take time, and guidance from the doctor and the patients thoughts on their own rehabilitation are important considerations in terms of assessing controlling the speed of a case.
What accidents should be reported to HSE ?
The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Regulations 2016 require reporting of accidents and record keeping in certain circumstances such as:
- Where an employee dies as a result of an accident at their place of work or in the course of carrying out their work in a location other than their normal place of work;
- an employee, as a result of an accident at their place of work or in the course of carrying out their work in a location other than their normal place of work, is prevented from performing their normal work for more than 3 consecutive days, excluding the day of the accident but including any days which would not have been working days;
- an employee dies within one year as a result of an accident at their place of work or in the course of carrying out their work in a location other than their normal place of work;
- any person who is not at work but who as a result of an accident related to a place of work or a work activity dies, within one year of the accident;
- any person who is not at work but who as a result of an accident related to a place of work or a work activity suffers any injury or condition which, due to the nature or severity of the injury or condition, results in the person being taken from the location of the accident to receive treatment in respect of that injury in a hospital or medical facility, or
- there is a dangerous occurrence.
Case Assessment Advice
If you wish you can contact us by telephone or email and we will have an initial meeting with you to explore the facts and furnish a case opinion to you, and advise you about the process of an industrial accident* claim.
Please be advised that the above-mentioned material is intended as an overview and as a broad out-line of the topic discussed. It should not be considered as complete and comprehensive legal advice, nor act as an appropriate substitute.
Due care has been taken in the publication of this article and we do not accept legal liability as a result of reliance on any material covered in the above article.
In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.