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Occupational Health Company prosecuted by HSE


A Cornish company has been prosecuted after using unqualified staff to screen the health of workers from dozens of other organisations.

Audio Medical Services Ltd (AMS) carried out tests inadequately for 59 companies over a period of at least four years across the UK. The company failed to provide employers with information to prevent workers' health deteriorating and did not refer employees to occupational health professionals when required.

The case related to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) caused by regular use of hand-held power tools or holding materials processed by machinery. Symptoms include pain, numbness and tingling in the fingers and a reduced sense of touch which can be disabling. It is also characterised by finger blanching, known as 'vibration white finger'. The condition can be prevented, but once developed, cannot be cured.

The issue came to light following a company identifying problems with the health checks performed by AMS. HSE then contacted companies who employed the services of AMS and visited a range of firms.  The investigation identified that numerous employees at these companies had not been suitably referred to an occupational health provider and therefore continued to be exposed to vibration at work. This put individuals at risk of further deterioration and permanent damage.

HSE Inspector, Georgina Speake, said:

"The failures of AMS were totally unacceptable.

"Companies using AMS thought they were doing the right thing by providing screening for their employees. AMS's negligent behaviour meant a significant number of workers have been put at risk of worsening their conditions by continuing with their normal work practices when they should have stopped.

"Around two million people are at risk of this painful and debilitating condition in the UK and although preventable, once the damage is done it is permanent, there simply is no treatment. Proper health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage."

Attacks of HAVS may cause pain, numbness and tingling as well as reduced manual dexterity and the effect may spread from the tips of the fingers up the digit, causing stiffness in the hand and arm. Sufferers may struggle with tasks requiring fine manipulation, including simple tasks like dressing, which can affect their family and social lives. In severe cases, blood circulation may be permanently impaired.

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