Unite member’s employer held to account for causing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A Unite member, who developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) as a result of the excessive use of vibrating tools, has secured compensation with the backing of Unite Legal Services.

Throughout his employment he used vibrating tools every day including drills, stihl saws, jigsaws and kango hammers when working on housing refurbishment schemes.

The employer failed to monitor his exposure to vibration; there was no health surveillance in place and no training on the risks of developing a vibration induced injury.

As a result of the ongoing exposure to vibration he developed CTS, a painful and disabling condition which causes pins and needles, numbness, weakness of grip and pain in the hands and fingers.

After reporting his symptoms to his employers they took steps to limit his use of the tools but did so without checking the ongoing level of vibration.

The member had surgery to repair the damage the CTS had caused to his hands. However, his employer’s sick pay policy meant that he had to have surgery on both hands at the same time, instead of on separate occasions as recommended by medical experts.

When he returned to work his employers failed to carry out a suitable risk assessment or monitor the tasks they expected of him. He still has ongoing symptoms and has been left with permanent nerve damage, which restricts what he can do in work and affects his everyday life.

Unite Legal Services pursued a successful claim of compensation on the member’s behalf.

He said: “My condition has stopped me enjoying many aspects of my life. I struggle to go fishing now as my hands become very painful in the cold, and I find it difficult to do anything manual like gardening.

“I feel so frustrated because my condition could have been avoided if my employer had taken steps to reduce my exposure to vibration. And even when they were made aware of my CTS, it wasn’t really taken seriously until Unite Legal Services took action against them.”

Unite North East, Yorkshire and Humberside regional secretary, Karen Reay, said: “It is absolutely vital that employers put in place effective systems to monitor and control exposure to vibration, ensure that it is as low as possible through job rotation, provide quality tools and give adequate training and information on the dangers of vibration.

“Our member’s employer did none of these things even after he had surgery. Their lack of care has left him with a long term disability.

“The action taken by Unite Legal Services has not only made sure that the member has received 100% of his compensation for CTS and his financial losses, but it has held the employer to account to improve its standards of health and safety.”