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vibration claims - frequency is key

8 February 2018

The Court of Appeal handed down judgment in the interesting case of Adrian Bowe v Mersey Rewinds Engineering Ltd & Ors (2018) last week. Three defendant companies who had employed the claimant over his working life appealed against a finding that they were in breach of their duty of care regarding exposure to vibration.

The court at first instance found that the claimant had been exposed to vibrating tools occasionally and that from time to time this exposure would exceed threshold levels. There was also a finding that in the absence of any warnings or monitoring that the employers were in breach of their duty of care.

The key issue was whether the occasional exposure was enough for breach to be upheld. The Court of Appeal found it was not and that frequency of use was a vital component to illustrating breach of duty. A lack of warnings or vibration monitoring is only a breach of duty when coupled with frequent exposure to vibrating tools above the threshold limit.

This serves as an important reminder to scrutinise a claimant’s exposure levels. Any exposure which can be categorised as 'infrequent' may well provide an opportunity to defend such claims on liability. With the benefit of good evidence of the claimant’s tool usage and vibration output of the tools, with supporting engineering and witness evidence, there is good reason for defendants to maintain a robust repudiation.

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