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HSE to make consultants take vibration injuries rap

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NEW REGULATIONS to cut vibration-induced injuries in the construction industry risk exposing consultants to a £60M liability, a leading tool manufacturer warned this week.

Power tool specialist Hilti has warned that consultants are unaware that the UK's adoption of a European Directive this July will make them res onsible for controlling the spread of a disease that already affects around 2M people in the UK.

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) results from the use of hand-held power tools and the number and cost of claims is rapidly spiralling upwards.

The most well-known form of HAVS is vibration white finger (VWF). Since 1998 the number of people with advanced stages of VWF has soared from 36,000 to 300,000. Last year 3,000 construction claims were settled with an average pay-out of £20,000.

There are no specific legal provisions requiring control of occupational exposure to vibration. But this will change on 5 July when the UK adopts the European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive.

Although the Directive places responsibility on contractors by setting strict exposure limits for their employees, the UK is putting more emphasis on designers by implementing the Directive through the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and by revising current guidance.

'HAVS is on the HSE's list of priorities for clients and designers, ' said Hilti product manager Walid Hussain. 'But how many designers are aware of this-' The fi al guidance is not published until next month, but draft guidance published for consultation in November 2003 said designers should take responsibility by 'designing out risk'.

An HSE report into the underlying causes of HAVS, carried out in 2003 ahead of the consultation, added: 'Designers should be targeted to encourage them to eliminate or substitute the hazard and thus reduce both the time of exposure and the level of vibration.' Hussain said that designers could reduce risks by designing with weaker concretes, by using anchors with lower drilling requirements or by specifying low vibration tools.

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