An RMT member has received £10,000 in compensation after his hands were permanently damaged by prolonged use of vibrating tools at work.

The 50-year-old from Sheffield was left with debilitating condition Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after working as a trackman for Jarvis Rail and other companies since 1978.

He used vibrating tools like rail disc cutters, impact wrenches and hammer guns while working on the railway lines. He first began to have symptoms of HAVS in the mid 1990s but did not realise it was caused by his work. He was not diagnosed with the condition until 2005 and now no longer works with vibrating equipment.

The condition still gives him pain and working with his hands outdoors causes him some difficulty.

HAVS is an industrial injury

HAVS is an industrial injury which affects many people who operate hand-held vibrating power tools over a number of years.

Its symptoms can differ greatly for each sufferer but common complaints are numbness in the fingertips, discolouration of the skin and general aches and pains in the hands, arms and fingers.

Since 1976 a duty of care has been placed on employers to protect their employees from this danger.

Following his diagnosis he contacted his union, the RMT, which instructed Thompsons Solicitors to pursue a claim for compensation.

Jarvis Rail admitted liability and settled the claim following court proceedings.

Medical detected HAVS

The RMT member said: “I put the problems with my hands down to poor circulation and age. I had no idea that I was suffering from HAVS. It wasn’t until I had a medical in 2005 that I found out that it was a work-related.

“If my bosses had spotted I was in danger of developing this condition earlier, maybe something could have been done to stop it from worsening. Now that I have been diagnosed, I no longer work with vibrating tools but the damage has already been done.”

Bob Crow from the RMT said: “HAVS is a widespread hazard for our members working on the tracks where power tools are often used to make repairs.”

“We are pleased that in this case our member has been compensated for his injury and that his employer has been held to account.”

Employers need to make sure levels of vibration are kept within health and safety regulations

Client representative at Thompsons Solicitors Simon Wood added: “There are thousands of people across the UK who are employed in similar work to this client and are therefore at risk of developing HAVS if action is not taken by their employers to make sure levels of vibration are kept within health and safety regulations.

“Employers need to be aware of the symptoms of HAVS and take steps to ensure their staff do not develop this condition.”