Powys Teaching Health Board "failed to grasp the importance" of vibration while using power tools, a watchdog has said.

An investigation into decades-long health and safety failures at Powys Teaching health Board found that it had ignored risk assessment requests from its own occupational health department.

The health board that provides care for more than 130,000 people living in Powys was fined £160,000 after at least three of its Estates Department employees were diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) from using handheld power tools such as lawn mowers, strimmers and hedge cutters.

READ MORE: Powys health board given £160,000 health and safety fine

An investigation found that PTHB did not carry out an assessment of the risks from exposure to vibration meaning there was no monitoring, or any estimate of exposure to vibration, even though employees, particularly during the summer months, operated handheld power tools for several hours a day.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the health board had failed to properly assess the levels of exposure to its employees and that information, instruction and training given to staff was limited.


Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Joe Boast said: “This was a case of the health board completely failing to grasp the importance of managing its staff’s exposure to vibration while using handheld power tools.

“Employers should conduct a full assessment of the vibration magnitude and exposure duration, before reviewing whether employees are at risk. There is a simple online calculator to help employers complete this process.

"If the health board had followed the free guidance, they would not have exposed employees to risk and possibly have prevented the ill health that has been suffered.”

The lack of monitoring, assessment, training and health surveillance has allowed employees to operate handheld power tools for a significant period, in some cases several decades, without having the necessary measures in place to reduce the risk. This led to three employees being diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome.

Powys Teaching Health Board of Glasbury House, Bronllys Hospital, Bronllys, Powys, Wales, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. They were fined £160,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,599 at Wrexham Magistrates’ Court on 22 November 2022.

After last week's hearing, health board chief exeutive Carol Shillabeer said: “Powys Teaching Health Board fully accepts today’s verdict and we apologise to affected staff and their families.

"We have ensured that learning has been put into effect, and we have made crucial improvements to prevent such events from happening again.

“We have a strong commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing and hope the improvements we have made provide reassurance to staff and to the public.”