UNISON, the UK's leading public sector union, is calling for urgent action to protect workers from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) after securing £3000 compensation for Joseph Beale, a council worker from Bridgend.

A Freedom of Information request to Bridgend County Borough Council found that more than forty staff had developed a similar condition working at the council. Despite evidence proving that monitoring the time workers spend on vibrating tools or providing them with anti-vibration gloves would prevent injuries, the council has failed to provide staff with the necessary equipment or training.

UNISON Regional Officer for Wales, Paul O'Shea said:

"This case could well be the tip of the iceberg. Unless employers face up to their responsibilities to protect their workers they run the risk of facing many similar claims for compensation.

"Bridgend County Borough Council has a duty of care to their employees. They must make sure staff are aware of the dangers of using these tools over long periods of time, and put in place safe working practises to minimise the risks staff are exposed to."

Power Tools including Gardening Machinery

Joseph Beale developed the condition in 2004 after more than 10 years of service to his local council, where he used power tools including gardening machinery, such as mowers, strimmers, and hedge cutters and road tools. Commenting on his condition, Joseph Beale said:

"Despite having worked with vibrating tools for over ten years the council did not warn me about the possible dangers, and now I have developed a disease that I did not even know existed.

"Bridgend County Borough Council need to start taking this condition seriously. At the moment only certain staff are given anti-vibrating gloves, and agency staff get even worse levels of protective equipment. This is a short term strategy which will cost the taxpayer dear if even a fraction of these staff develop HAVS and claim compensation."

Mr Beale's representative from Thompsons Solicitors, who took the case for UNISON, said: "Mr Beale is one of many workers who have been negligently exposed to HAVS. Local councils must do more to protect their staff."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that around five million workers in the UK are exposed to Hand Arm Vibration at work. Two million of these workers are exposed to levels of vibration where there are clear risks. The condition leads to painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves, joints and muscles of the hands and arms.