Plymouth City Council Fined £200,000 Over Staff Hand Conditions

Plymouth City Council has been fined £200,000 by a watchdog after employees exposed to vibrations in roles, including grass cutting, developed hand and wrist conditions.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said council failures led to diagnoses in six employees.

It blamed “prolonged and uncontrolled exposure” to hand-arm vibration.

Plymouth City Council chief executive Tracey Lee said they “fully accepted” the result.

She added: “We fully accept that there were failings in our processes, which is why we pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity.”

The chief executive said they took health and safety responsibilities “very seriously” and had reviewed processes and put in place new procedures and equipment as a result.

The HSE said two employees developed hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), while four were diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

HAVS can affect the nerves, causing pins and needles and numbness, and can result in reduced strength in the hands.

CTS can cause pain in the fingers, hand or arm, and lead to numbness or tingling, as well as difficulty gripping.

An investigation by the HSE found that, between 2005 and 2019, Plymouth City Council failed to ensure, so far as was reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees who were exposed to health risks prior to 2017 who used hand-held or hand-guided vibrating equipment.

The HSE said guidance had been available for employers since 2005.

Plymouth City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The authority was also ordered to pay £25,877 costs at Plymouth Magistrates’ Court on 29 June 2023, the HSE said.

HSE inspector Janet Hensey said: “We will not hesitate to take action against companies which do not do all that they can to keep people safe.

“Exposure to vibration is a recognised health risk with potentially disabling consequences.”