An RMT member who suffered permanent damage to his hands caused by excessive levels of vibration from workplace tools has received substantial sum compensation.

Kevin Thornton, 48, from Wilmslow, Cheshire developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), a condition which causes numbness and loss of grip, through working with vibrating tools for 22 years for Network Rail and its predecessors, including British Rail.

The bricklayer and engineer’s employers failed to monitor and control the levels of vibration he was exposed to in order to ensure they stayed within safe limits. Instead he used vibrating tools like rock drills on a daily basis for hours at a time.

Mr Thornton first began to suffer from symptoms of HAVS in 2009 and was diagnosed with the condition shortly afterwards. Hs trade union, the RMT, instructed its lawyers Thompsons Solicitors to investigate a claim for compensation. After the claim was started Mr Thornton was moved to another job which did not involve using vibrating tools.

Network Rail admitted liability and settled the claim out of court.

Using all types of vibrating tools every day for hours at a time

Mr Thornton said: “My first 22 years working on the railway saw me using all types of vibrating tools every day for hours at a time. It was only relatively recently that my exposure was reduced but I was still using a disc cutter until Thompsons informed my employer that I was claiming compensation.

“Now that I’m no longer using vibrating tools my hands are much better but I have been told that I will suffer symptoms for the rest of my life and that they could get worse with time.”

Bob Crow from the RMT added: “Employers have known since 1976 that excessive exposure to vibration can cause industrial injury. Any employer with staff using vibrating tools must have a policy in place to ensure they are monitored and are not exposed to excessive use. Network Rail is a large employer and many of its staff use vibrating tools and it is not good enough that it did not protect this worker against this condition.”

Jon Carlisle from Thompsons Solicitors said: “Network Rail has no excuse for causing Mr Thornton to develop this painful and debilitating condition. Health and safety regulations are in place to protect workers from this type of industrial injury and employers who abide by those rules are protected from expensive legal action like this.”