North East Wales

Wrexham council fined over hand-arm vibration syndrome policy

Mold Crown Court

A council has been fined £150,000 after it admitted failing to ensure workers using machinery were not affected by hand-arm vibration syndrome.

Wrexham council had written policies in place but no adequate system to ensure they were put into practice, Flintshire Magistrates' Court heard.

District Judge Gwyn Jones said it was a significant failure which ran from 2011 to 2016.

The council must also pay £10,900 to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Judge Jones said he appreciated that any fine would have a significant impact on the local authority.

But the council had a responsibility to assess the levels of risk and to carry out procedures to reduce or eliminate the risks while using machinery such as lawn mowers, strimmers and leaf blowers, he said.

Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and causes painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.

Prosecuting barrister Jonathan Rogers said if the council had followed its own policies - written in 2004, 2006 and 2011 - it would have done a good job.

"They were updated but they never did anything," Mr Rogers said.

'Lessons learned'

A complaint from one affected worker in the parks department raised the issue, the court heard, and his manager referred the matter on.

Jonathan Hart, defending, said senior officials had taken the matter very seriously and lessons had been learned.

The issue mainly affected staff in the street scene department, he said.

Chief executive Helen Paterson said the council fully accepted the court's findings, sympathised with the individuals affected and regretted the circumstances which led to their exposure to developing hand-arm vibration syndrome.

"Since this issue came to the attention of the council, we have worked with the HSE to resolve the matter and have implemented their recommendations," she said.

She said the HSE would be working with the council to ensure their action plan was implemented as part of the longer term health and safety strategy.

Council leader Mark Pritchard said: "This matter pre-dates this administration by several years but that does not mean that we are not taking it extremely seriously."

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