A boilermaker from Port Talbot whose hands have been permanently damaged from regular use of vibrating tools has been paid compensation from four employers with the support of his trade union GMB.

The man, aged 50, has been employed by four different companies during his working life and has been regularly exposed to excessive vibration from tools such as grinders, pistol drills, large drills, needle guns and impact wrenches.

His current employer - Fairwood Fabrications - admitted breach of duty after court proceedings were issued, but the other three defendants – West End Forge Ltd (formerly Express Site Services Ltd) of Swansea, A. WELD Ltd of Neath, and BP Oil Refinery Ltd of Llandarcy, denied liability throughout and did not agree to pay compensation until a few days before the trial was due to take place. As a result of the settlement, the man has been paid a total of £8,400 compensation. Since then, his job with his current employer has changed so he is no longer exposed to hazardous levels of vibration.

Using Hand held Power Tools lead to illness

He explains: “My symptoms included attacks of tingling and numbness in my fingers which began to wake me up at night. My fingers started to become white during these attacks. I didn’t know what was wrong with my hands until I saw a video about Vibration White Finger (VWF) at work and made the connection. I’ve never been instructed to avoid the use of hand held power tools, and I’m not required to monitor the amount of use or rotate the work to avoid using tools too much.”

Nick Hughes, from GMB, comments: “We are very pleased with the settlement our member has secured from these employers. He should have been provided with padded gloves designed to reduce the amount of vibration received when using these tools. We hope that it will now force these four firms to ensure that correct health and safety procedures are in place in the future.”

Representing the man, Petra Williams, from Thompsons Solicitors in Cardiff, comments: “Our client suffers ongoing pain in both his hands. The continuing deterioration of his hands has impacted his day to day life as well as his employment prospects. He is uncertain how long he will be able to continue doing this type of work. If he had to stop using power tools, it would be very difficult for him to function.”