Worker win payout of more than £100,000 after safety breach left him struggling to even wash dishes

By Rachel Hains

A glass worker has received a payout of more than £100,000 after a glazing firm was fined for breaching health and safety laws that left him with 'vibration white finger'.

Jamie Ross, 35, lives in constant pain from the life-changing condition known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after years of using powerful glass cutting tools.

He has had to give up his favourite hobby of carp fishing and even simple daily tasks like washing up are a struggle for the father-of-two, who suffers cramps and aches.

Tingling and numbness keeps him awake in the night and when he tries to stretch his hand out, he is left in excruciating pain.

Symptoms include attacks of whitening of the fingers, tingling and loss of sensation, loss of grip strength, and pain and cold sensations between whitening attacks.

Jamie, who used cutting tools while working for PSV Glass and Glazing, is one of more than 20 people diagnosed with the condition who took legal action against the firm.

A court ruled the company failed to ensure the safety of staff who used a Fein cutter – a handheld tool that vibrates - and hit them with a £200,000 fine.

Jamie, from Rotherham, South Yorks., said: “When carrying out the cutting work, the Fein cutter had to be held in both hands and there was always a pressure and expectation to use it due to time restrictions.

“It’s no surprise to me that a number of other fitters I worked with have also been diagnosed with HAVS.

“I continue to suffer badly with my hands on a daily basis, and they are particularly bad during the winter months when I suffer with regular and debilitating attacks of my hands and fingers whitening.

“I also suffer from cramps and aching in my hands every day and the tingling and numbness wakes me in the night. When I try to stretch my hands out, it’s really painful."

Jamie began working for PSV as an installation technician in April 2013 and used the Fein cutter “on almost every job” for “at least an hour to an hour and a half at a time.”

He began suffering from whitening of his fingertips in late 2015. Around two years later, he complained of pain while gripping the cutter, as well as persistent tingling.

In mid-2018, Jamie completed a health surveillance questionnaire, and he was sent for an occupational health medical in February 2019. He was subsequently told to stop working with the tool, which he used to remove windows and screens from trains, trams, buses and coaches.

The firm, based in High Wycombe, Bucks., also has depots in the East Midlands and Manchester, where Jamie was based.

Reading Magistrates Court heard the firm failed to adequately control the risk to its employees from using vibrating tools.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) probe found that the company failed to adequately assess the risk to employees from exposure to vibration.

They did not monitor the use of the Fein cutters and had not implemented measures to control exposure, it was found.

There was no tool maintenance programme to ensure tools were working effectively to ensure vibration levels were kept to a minimum.

Jamie added: “Before developing HAVS, I used to enjoy carp fishing but I’ve had to give that up now due to my hands, and I’ve also had to limit how much I can go cycling and play football and golf.

"Simple tasks, such as driving, gardening, and even washing up, are a real struggle now, as is just about anything that involves using my hands. My life has changed a lot.

“Sadly, I know that my condition is likely to affect the rest of my life, but there is nothing I can do about it. I’m just grateful that the settlement will ensure I have the financial stability I need.

“All I can do now is urge employers to put their workers first by following health and safety precautions.

Alex Shorey, the specialist industrial injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing a number of those affected, said: “We represent many people in their 30s and 40s who have gone on to develop HAVS they believe as a result of using this specific tool during their employment with PSV Glass and Glazing Limited.

“HAVS has a severe effect on a person’s daily life and future employment prospects.

"Sufferers go on to develop a loss of feeling, pain and a lack of fine motor skills in their hands which results in them struggling to work, particularly within the same industry.

"They can also find simple everyday tasks, such as doing up buttons and picking things up, challenging.

"In addition, the condition often deteriorates over time and there is currently no cure."

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