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Norfolk County Council

“The workforce showed a hugely positive attitude towards the HAVmeter® because it’s so easy to use and it’s protecting them at the same time”.

In 1985 vibration white finger was officially listed as a prescribed condition in the UK.  Now, with more than £100m of government compensation having been paid out to victims, councils across the country are buying into preventative solutions.

Medically known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), vibration white finger (VWF) affects hundreds of thousands of British workers employed across the private and public sectors. 

However with some five million people exposed to the risk of VWF daily, that number is only expected to rise.

HAVS is the result of over exposure to vibration equipment - such as power tools, diggers and grass cutters - and can mean painful and disabling injuries of the blood vessels, nerves, joints and muscles in the hands and arms and in extreme cases it can mean the loss of fingers.

Although these figures are startling, many councils in England and Wales also want and need to be viewed as considerate employers, which is why many UK local authorities have invested in a new preventative technology to safeguard their employees.

Norfolk County Council is one authority that has taken measures to ensure its employees and the council are protected from HAVS by introducing a clever monitoring device – aptly named the HAVmeter – to its manual workforce.

Colin Tibbenham, from the council’s Environment Transport and Development department was project manager for the roll-out of the new equipment. He says Norfolk aim to make the HAVmeter an extension of the road workers’ personal protective equipment (PPE) which is an industry standard requirement set by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

He said: “We trialled the HAVmeter from June 2008 until August 2009 then introduced the device to our workforce in January 2010 after receiving a number of HAVS related claims from former employees who had worked on council projects in the past. 

“We knew that to avoid this kind of thing in future we had to take action to protect our teams and of course to protect the council’s limited funds. We needed a better monitoring system in place to make sure we knew who was working with what machinery and for how long.”

“After reviewing a number of potential solutions, we decided on the HAVmeter because it was the only option that ticked all the boxes for us in terms of accountability as it could give us detailed records of what our teams were exposed to.” 

“We purchased one HAVmeter for every worker in our Environmental & Waste and Highways divisions – a total of 250 - which means we now look after everyone who works with us at any given time, including our partners and sub-contractors.  If they work with us, then they have to comply with our safety rules.

“Through our investment in preventing HAVS we have been able to reinforce the message to our workforce that Norfolk County Council takes health and safety very seriously and that we care about and value our workers.

“Also, the devices mean we now have a robust defence in place to protect us against any claims.”

The HAVmeter system allows any workers using vibrating tools to easily and accurately monitor their exposure levels to Hand Arm Vibration.

At the beginning of each shift, the worker signs out a HAVmeter from a base station using their own personalised card which is programmed with the levels of exposure they should work within. They then clip on the device to every tool that they use during their shift.

The HAVmeter provides a constant readout of exposure level and flashes a warning to the worker when his/her exposure limits are reached.

A simple yet 100 percent accurate method to monitor workers’ use of vibration equipment, the HAVmeter allows both employee and employer to know exactly who has been doing what and when.

While HSE regulations require employers to take responsibility to monitor time spent using vibration machinery, until the arrival of HAVmeter there was no reliable solution to ensure workers’ time spent exposed to vibration levels was 100 percent accurate.

The HAVmeter system builds up a complete and detailed record of tool usage and HSE exposure points for each employee every day. Once the data is uploaded into Toolminder software, a comprehensive set of standard and custom reports can be created that show workers a full breakdown of their exposure to vibration levels that management and occupational healthcare staff can use to manage each employee’s healthcare plan.

The reports are complete, accurate and with no ambiguity – providing the most comprehensive information about exposure to HAV levels in the workplace.

Colin Tibbenham said: “This is a system that will be with us for some time because like all public bodies, we are accountable, and huge claims and employees with illness are not good for anyone.  The system is helping us to monitor exposure to HAVS and look after the safety of our men and women.”



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