EMPLOYERS who fail to carry out rigorous pre-employment screening for vibration-related injuries are at risk from claims by employees injured while working for other firms.
Matt Wadie, occupational hygienist with consultant Bodycote Health Sciences, told Construction News that workers who develop vibration-related ailments, such as vibration white finger, might seek compensation from their current employers even if the injury dates back to previous employment.
Mr Wadie said: 'Since the introduction of the Control of the Vibration at Work Act around the middle of last year, many employers have taken steps to prevent their workers being exposed to vibration while others seem to be waiting to see what happens.'
But he warned that employers who take their responsibilities seriously might still be vulnerable to claims if they are unable to prove that claimants' injuries were not sustained or exacerbated while in their employment.
Mr Wadie said: 'Pre-employment screening is essential to identify people who have signs of the early stages of vibration white finger. You've got to do it - and if you haven't done it, you're wide open.'
The Control of Vibration at Work Act 2005 introduced new responsibilities for employers to prevent or adequately control workers' exposure to vibration. Both hand-arm vibration syndrome and whole-body vibration syndrome are known to cause severe musculo-skeletal problems including nerve damage, impaired blood circulation and muscle damage.
Mr Wadie also said that the availability of 'no win, no fee' legal services could encourage some employees to lodge claims that they might not otherwise consider.
He said: 'Some people will chance it and if one person in a work place makes a successful claim there would be a steamroller effect.'
But James Bell, who specialises in personal injury at London law firm Christian Khan, said that employers who discharge their responsibilities should not be held responsible for the negligence of others.
He added: 'An employer can only be liable if they are shown to be negligent or have breached some rule or regulation.
'It would in any case be better to pursue previous employers if the claimant had not been with their current employer for very long. This is because liability will be determined proportionately according to the period of employment.
'But I certainly agree that employers should health-screen all applicants and, if there is a history of injury, to ensure that they are not put on duties that would exacerbate that injury.'