Q: My father has been a road construction worker most of his working life, often operating drills for hours on end without a break. In recent years he has complained of pins and needles and stiffness in his fingers and hands. The problem has got steadily worse and now he's trying to fathom out if he can afford to retire early. He says it's just old age wear and tear, but I think it has something to do with the machinery he uses and that he might have a case for an industrial injury claim. Could this be the case?
A: It is not uncommon for people who work with vibrating tools to suffer symptoms such as you describe. It is also not uncommon for them to fail to make a connection between the symptoms and the job they do. Two of the most prevalent conditions are Vibration White Finger (VWF) and Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), both of which come under the banner of Industrial Diseases and both of which can be considered eligible for compensation, especially if the symptoms become severe enough to cut short a person's working life.
To bring a successful claim your father would firstly need some confirmation from a medical practitioner that he has such a condition. Next you would need to prove that your father's employers should have been aware that they were exposing him to potential bodily damage, and also employment capacity in the long term, by expecting him to use vibrating tools over long periods.
The big problem is that symptoms often take years to manifest themselves, so if an employer has done the same job with several different companies it is hard to prove where the problem started. The first step to take is that your father should make an appointment to see a solicitor who specialises in injury compensation cases.