Glass worker given £100k payout for 'vibration white finger' from using hand tool

·4-min read
Jamie Ross suffers from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. (SWNS)
Jamie Ross suffers from vibration white finger. (SWNS)

A glazing firm worker has received a payout of more than £100,000 after he developed “vibration white finger” from using glass cutting tools.

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

A court fined the glazing firm where he worked for breaching health and safety laws.

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 keep him awake at night and when he tries to stretch his hands out, he is left in excruciating pain.

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

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Mr Ross, 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.

Mr Ross 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.

PSV Glass and Glazing's offices in High Wycombe, Bucks. (Google Maps)
PSV Glass and Glazing's offices in High Wycombe, Bucks. (Google Maps)

“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."

Mr Ross 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. About two years later, he complained of pain while gripping the cutter, as well as persistent tingling

In 2018, Mr Ross 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, Buckinghamshire, also has depots in the East Midlands and Manchester, where Mr Ross was based.

The case was heard at Reading Magistrates' Court. (Google)
The case against PSV Glass and Glazing was heard at Reading Magistrates' Court. (Google)

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) investigation found 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, the court heard.

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

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The HSE website states: “Hand-arm vibration (HAV) can cause vibration white finger, a permanent and painful numbness and tingling in the hands and arms, also painful joints and muscle weakening.”

Alex Shorey, the specialist industrial injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing a number of those affected, said: “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.”

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