MAJOR CONTRACTORS are to press for independent testing of handheld site tools so they can avoid being targeted for compensation after new safety laws come into effect next week.
They fear they could be unwittingly held liable for claims from workers with vibration induced injuries. This is because tools used by workers often vibrate more vigorously in practice than is claimed by manufacturers.
As a result contractors want more evidence of manufacturers' claims that their tools will not injure workers.
Tougher limits on vibration of handheld tools are set in the European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive, to be adopted by the UK next week.
The new regulations are expected to trigger a flood of new claims for hand-arm vibration injuries such as vibration white finger which construction lawyers calculate could cost the industry £9bn.
'Companies have become concerned that some of the data for measuring the effect of vibration on workers is not as meaningful as it could be, ' said Major Contractors Group health and safety implementation manager John Bradshaw.
On paper most tools will comply with new vibration limits, with most manufacturers testing equipment to BS/EN 50144 themselves under laboratory conditions.
But academics at Loughborough University have questioned this practice. They claim vibration levels are six times higher on average if tested in a real life simulation rather than under laboratory conditions (NCE 28 April).
The Major Contractors Group has now agreed to set up independent tests to measure tools in a working environment.