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Home > News > Stonemason receives vibration white finger compensation

28th January 2013

Stonemason receives vibration white finger compensation

Vibration white finger is a crippling condition and can affect anyone who uses vibrating tools if employers negligently allow them to be used excessively. But for a stonemason, for whom the use of his hands in this skilled occupation is critical, it is a devastating diagnosis that usually means the end of their career.

This compensation claim was brought against two of our client’s previous employers who had each negligently exposed him to the risk of developing vibration white finger. Both defendants strongly contested liability and we were forced to issue court proceedings. All issues were disputed, including the cause of the condition and the amount of exposure. The employer attempted to blame our client for the situation.

However, prior to the trial date and following robust negotiations during which our specialist occupational disease lawyers recommended our client reject initial offers, we were able to secure a six figure sum in compensation for both his industrial injury and for having to leave his chosen profession (a figure more than double the original amount offered). The compensation was paid equally by the employers.

Stonemason negligently exposed to risk of vibration white finger

Our client in this claim for vibration white finger compensation had been a stonemason for about 10 years. Neither of the defendants had given our client any training on the appropriate use of vibrating tools and equipment.

Although the risks of developing vibration white finger (sometimes referred to as HAVS – Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome) have been well known for 20 – 40 years , no action was taken to minimise the risk. The employers did not properly check the levels of vibration from the tools or take steps to limit the time spent using the tools – this was especially important since our solicitors instructed a vibration expert to test the tools; one of them turned out to be unsafe to use for more than a few minutes a day.

The employers provided ‘anti vibration’ gloves, ignoring guidance that these provide little or no protection. There was no training given in the correct handling of the tools themselves to minimise the vibration whilst in use.

For most of his time as a stonemason, our client used power tools for several hours every day. These included pneumatic chisels, pneumatic hammers, angle grinders, spinners, a Kango (heavy drill), and our client was actively encouraged to use them as much as possible to speed up the work.

In fact, relatively new to his profession at first, our client was keen to improve his skills and the more adept at using the power tools he became, the more work he was given, compounding the negligent exposure and the risk of developing vibration white finger.

Shortly before leaving, our client’s second employer instigated some of the recommended best practices, including some monitoring of the use of pneumatic tools each day. Too late of course for our client.

Breaches of regulations

For several years, these defendants had continuously breached the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations as well as the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, which were implemented to provide protection to employees because of the known risks when using vibrating tools.

In addition, in 1998, prior to our client qualifying as a stonemason, the Health and Safety Executive gave guidance about the risks of HAVS to stonemasons, Reducing the risk of hand-arm vibration injury among Stonemasons. As with the Regulations, the defendants did not bother to comply with this guidance.

Symptoms of HAVS or vibration white finger

Our client had first noticed problems with his fingers some years before the diagnosis. When he mentioned it to his first employer, he was told it was nothing and not to worry, it was an “occupational condition”.

The first symptoms affected the tip of a finger and he would experience numbness and tingling a couple of times a week. Each winter the condition became worse, affecting more fingers and occurring more frequently. As his work often required him to work outside or in cold temporary accommodation, he found it more and more difficult to get his hands warm.

Eventually, the numbness and tingling was accompanied by his fingers turning white, or blanching. Again starting at the tips of his fingers but as his condition worsened, the blanching reached further down his fingers. It has become more and more difficult to warm his hands, and as they do so, and the attacks pass, he experiences significant pain, with pins and needles in his fingers which turn bright red. He now experiences attacks on a daily basis even in relatively mild weather.

His condition began to affect his ability to carry out the detailed work required of a stonemason.

Consequences of hand-arm vibration syndrome

Our client has been diagnosed as having hand-arm vibration syndrome with a scale of 2 vascular in both hands, and has been classified as partially disabled. His condition has also restricted his ability to carry out routine domestic tasks as well as his hobbies as he is unable to carry out delicate tasks.

Forced to give up the use of vibrating tools, our client could use hand tools only but found there was little or no work for someone in this situation. He has subsequently been forced to accept that he will no longer be able to work as a stonemason, a profession which he loved. He is also at a significant disadvantage in the open labour market due to his limited dexterity.

Specialists in vibration white finger compensation claims

Clear Answers are experts in winning compensation for VWF injuries and have extensive experience in such claims. Please visit our news section on vibration white finger to read other successful claims for compensation and how Clear Answers may be able to help you if you have been diagnosed with hand-arm vibration syndrome.

Making a claim for compensation claim for HAVS or vibration white finger

Clear Answers’ solicitors are able to offer expert legal advice through our dedicated team of personal injury lawyers specialising in industrial disease injuries. They have huge experience of industrial disease claims such as vibration white finger and will be happy to answer any questions you may have in plain English.

If you or your family have been affected by an industrial disease such as vibration white finger, and would like some advice about how to make a personal injury compensation claim contact Clear Answers' solicitors on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms, and one of our representatives will contact you as soon as possible.

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