Working in certain industries where vibrating tools are used can increase the risk of contracting Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), up to 2 million workers are at risk of this serious and disabling industrial condition. As employers are legally obliged to try to prevent workplace injuries, Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claims may be possible where they failed to take reasonable steps to protect staff. If you’re suffering from HAVS and believe your employer is to blame, this article should make your options clear.
Our team is here to help if you’d like free legal advice about starting a HAVS claim. During an initial consultation, they’ll review your options with you and let you know if you might be able to seek damages. If your claim appears to be viable, you’ll be referred to one of our workplace injury solicitors. You won’t need to pay them upfront if your case is accepted as they’ll represent you on a No Win, No Fee basis.
To learn more about when a HAVS compensation claim might be possible, please read on. Alternatively, why not call 0800 652 1345 to discuss your claim with a specialist right away?
What is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
Hand-arm vibration can occur when workers use certain machines or tools as part of their jobs such as power tools, road breakers, lawnmowers, grinders and drills. Low exposure to hand-arm vibration is not usually a problem but it can become hazardous if it occurs frequently or over prolonged periods.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a generic term used to describe the various musculoskeletal, vascular and neurological problems linked to vibrating power tools. HAVS can also lead to specific industrial diseases including Vibration White Finger (VWF) and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome symptoms
Some of the most common symptoms of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome include:
- Weakness in the hands.
- A tingling sensation or numbness in the fingers.
- Lack of sensation or feeling in the fingers.
- Pain in the affected area.
- Restricted movement of the arms, wrists or fingers.
- Fingertips changing colour (from pale and then to red over time).
- Reduced strength in the hands.
According to the HSE, Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is preventable but will result in permanent suffering once the damage has been done.
Occupations at risk of developing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
Essentially, anyone who regularly uses vibrating power tools is at risk of HAVS. However, there are some occupations and industries that are at higher risk including:
- Road workers.
- Construction and building workers.
- Arborculturists and gardeners.
- Foundry workers.
- Factory workers.
This isn’t a conclusive list which means you could have a valid HAVS compensation claim even if your job is not listed here.
Tools that can cause HAVS
The types of tools that might increase the risk of HAVS include:
- Floor scrubbing and cleaning tools.
- SDS drills (Slotted Drive Shaft/System), combi-action and hammer actions drills.
- Handheld rotary tools.
- Chainsaws and other hand-held saws.
- Sanders and polishers.
Can I claim compensation for HAVS?
Our team of personal injury lawyers can only take on HAVS claims with a reasonable chance of being won. That means if your claim is accepted, you’ll know that your solicitor believes you should be compensated. As such, before accepting your case, your solicitor will check whether:
- Your employer has breached their duty of care towards your well-being; because
- They were negligent; and
- You’ve been diagnosed with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome as a result of that negligence.
Proving all of the above can be complex which is why we’d suggest taking on specialist legal representation. If you work with one of our solicitors, they’ll carry out a thorough investigation into your working conditions and gather proof to support your Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claim.
Employer duty of care for staff
All employers have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to try and prevent workers from being injured at work. This is mainly based on the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Depending on the nature of your work, a duty of care might also be established by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. This law is designed to minimise the risks of staff being injured by vibrating tools.
To help reduce the risk of HAVS, the legislation sets out that employers must:
- Ensure the tools provided are the right ones for the job.
- Allow staff to have regular rest breaks when working with vibrating tools.
- Provide staff with adequate training on how to use vibrating tools safely – see our article on inadequate training in the workplace.
- Provide staff with anti-vibration gloves (at no cost) to reduce the impact of vibrating tools.
- Provide suitable health surveillance to those working with vibrating tools.
If your employer fails to assess the risks of working with vibration or put preventative measures in place to protect you, a Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claim may be possible if you’re diagnosed with the condition.
Is it OK to sue my employer for HAVS?
If you’re still working with the employer you blame for your suffering, you might be worried about the consequences of suing them for HAVS. However, you’re legally entitled to make a claim and, importantly, action cannot be taken against you as a result.
Any disciplinary action as a result of your HAVS claim including demotion, denial of training, prevention of promotion or even being fired could lead to a constructive or unfair dismissal claim against your employer.
Another concern for many is that any compensation paid for HAVS would affect the running of the business. That’s simply not the case as a HAVS compensation claim are usually made against the company’s liability insurance policy so should not have an impact on company profits.
How much compensation will I get for Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claims are usually based on how your symptoms have affected you physically and mentally (general damages) and any negative financial implications they’ve caused (special damages).
As such, if you are paid compensation for HAVS, it could include damages to cover:
- Any immediate and ongoing physical pain and suffering.
- Depression, anxiety, distress and other forms of psychiatric harm.
- Loss of earnings.
- Care costs to cover the time someone else has spent supporting you.
- Medical expenses including prescription costs and physiotherapy.
- Fuel costs, parking fees and other travel expenses linked to your treatment for HAVS or claim.
- Loss of amenity i.e. loss of enjoyment of your normal hobbies and activities.
- Vehicle or home modifications to help you deal with any ongoing HAVS symptoms.
- Future loss of earnings if your symptoms mean you can no longer earn as much as before.
As you can see, there is quite a lot to consider and it’s important to do so before your claim is filed as you can only claim once.
What is the average payout for HAVS?
While it’s not possible to provide an average payout for HAVS, as such, the Judicial College advises the following compensation ranges for work-related limb disorders (including Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome) depending on individual circumstances.
- Most serious cases of HAVS could see a payout of £31,640 to £38,430,
- Serious cases of HAVS might see compensation of £16,760 to £31,640.
- £8,640 to £16,760 for moderate HAVS.
- £2,990 to £8,640 for minor HAVS symptoms causing a modest effect on leisure or work.
If you make a Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claim with one of our solicitors, they’ll review everything in fine detail with you to try and secure the maximum level of compensation possible for your suffering.
Proof that can help substantiate your claim
As explained above, employers won’t normally defend themselves if you claim against them. Instead, they’ll pass everything on to their insurance company. Their stance will usually be to deny liability for everything from the outset. As such, if you’re to be compensated, you’ll want to provide as much proof as possible to prove why you developed HAVS and why your employer was to blame. This could include:
- Photographs of your working conditions. This could help to prove what tools you were using, the working environment or a lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- A copy of your shift pattern to help prove how often you were working with vibrating tools.
- Correspondence such as emails or text messages if you sent any to your employer expressing concerns about your working procedures.
- Copies of your medical records from your GP to help confirm their diagnosis of your injuries.
- Wage slips, receipts or bank statements to show how HAVS has affected you financially.
- Occupational therapy reports if your workplace was audited by a specialist.
- Witness statements from your colleagues that could help to confirm your working conditions.
If you have already managed to secure proof to support a claim, please get in touch. We’ll review it as part of your initial consultation as it could improve the chances of your claim being taken on.
Do I need to undergo a medical assessment?
So that you are compensated for both the suffering you’ve already endured and any that might occur in the future, you’ll need to have your HAVS examined by an independent medical specialist.
They will examine you, check your medical notes and ask a series of questions to help determine how you’ve been affected. They’ll then produce a report to set out your condition and to offer a prognosis for the future.
If liability for your claim is accepted, your solicitor will use your medical report to help calculate the amount of compensation for HAVS you should be paid.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claim time limits
All personal injury claims in the UK have a 3-year limitation period. Usually, the time limit would commence from the date you were injured. However, HAVS claims are different because it can take many months or even years for your symptoms to become apparent. So, the time limit for a HAVS compensation claim would begin from the date the condition was diagnosed by a doctor.
While 3 years is a reasonably long time, we’d suggest that you start the ball rolling as soon as possible. That will allow plenty of time for proof and medical reports to be gathered by your solicitor.
Also, an early start to your claim could allow interim payments to be requested before your claim is settled (if your employer has accepted liability for your injuries). These could make life a little easier and could cover medical costs, loss of earnings or care costs.
No Win, No Fee claims
We believe that legal representation increases the chance of winning any form of industrial injury claim. However, we understand that many people are worried about paying solicitors’ fees and then losing their case. For that reason, our personal injury solicitors conduct accepted HAVS claims on a No Win, No Fee basis. As a result, you don’t need to pay any legal fees upfront.
If you and your solicitor agree to work together, you’ll both sign a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) so that your solicitor can:
- Consult with you to find out exactly how you’ve been affected by HAVS.
- Collect proof and medical reports to support your claim.
- Contact the defendant and let them know about your claim.
- Manage all communications on your behalf to avoid you being asked complex legal or medical questions.
- Try to obtain extra proof where possible if queries or objections are raised.
- Attempt to secure the highest level of compensation possible should your claim be won.
You won’t have to pay for any of this work if the HAVS claim does not work out in your favour. If there is a positive outcome, though, a success fee will be deducted from your settlement amount. Legally, this is capped at 25% of any compensation and your percentage will be clearly listed in your CFA before you sign it.
To see if you could work with one of our solicitors on a No Win, No Fee HAVS claim please get in touch.
Start A Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome compensation claim today
To start the HAVS claims process all you need to do is call our advisors on 0800 652 1345. An advisor will talk you through everything and answer any questions before reviewing your claim for free.
If the claim appears to be strong enough and is accepted by a solicitor from our team, they’ll represent you on a No Win, No Fee basis. In our experience, that usually makes the process a lot less stressful.
Our live chat team are available if you have any other questions about Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome claims so please get in touch when you’re ready.