Rolls Royce has been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an employee was diagnosed with a permanent injury which has left him with nerve damage.
The HSE prosecuted Rolls Royce after Allan Thornewill, from Derby, developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome following exposure to high levels of vibration at the firm’s premises in Derby.
Mr Thornewill operated wet blasting cabinets, which are used to clean turbine blades cast at the Derby premises, for up to nine hours a day. He had to hold the blades in his hands as they were blasted with water under pressure. This exposed Mr Thornewill to high levels of hand arm vibration (HAV).
Derby Crown Court was told that after Mr Thornewill developed pins and needles and then numbness and pain, he reported the symptoms to his line manager and then sought treatment from his GP.
In September 2009, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and was unable to work for around four months.
Mr Thornewill has had to have four operations on his hands and still suffers dexterity problems in his right hand and weakness in both of his wrists.
The HSE investigation found that Rolls Royce plc did not properly assess the vibration risks faced by workers using the wet blasting cabinets and no suitable control measures were in place, such as limiting exposure or providing alternatives.
Mr Thornewill received no pre-employment screening and was not included in the company’s health surveillance list.
He has since returned to work, but in a different role. In 2012, Rolls Royce installed an automated system to replace the use of Vapormatt cabinets.
Vicki Wright, expert personal injury lawyer at Swain & Co says, “Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome linked to vibration exposure are entirely preventable. I understand that once the injury occurs, it is irreversible.”
“Companies have to properly assess the level of vibration exposure and limit the amount of time that workers are exposed to it.”
Almost two million people in the UK work in conditions were they are at risk of developing vibration related ill health, so it is essential that firms protect their employees.