Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Vibration White Finger Scandal. Thanet Council Cover Up Safety Review

I have posted 2 stories about the emerging Vibration White Finger scandal at Thanet District Council. Reportedly, up to 20 staff in the Grounds Maintenance and Cemeteries team have contracted this debilitating, painful and sometimes career-ending condition. This awful condition results from the prolonged (months and years) over use of vibrating equipment. The problem emerged late last year and early 2015, forcing the Council to take the unusual step of reclassifying the level of corporate health and safety risk from low to high. A clear sign that something was seriously wrong. Doubts that the Council was complying with Health and Safety law emerged with the decision, in March 2015, to hand over the management of TDCs Corporate Risk Register to the East Kent Audit Partnership. A move suggesting lack of confidence in the underlying evidence which had previously been used to classify health and safety as a low risk function. It was also announced in March that the Council would be conducting an investigation into its health and safety management procedures.

Today it has emerged that this investigation may now have been completed. In a report to be discussed by Thanet Council’s Cabinet meeting on 22nd October, it is noted that “the Health and Safety of our staff, residents, visitors, and volunteer and community groups is a key priority and we have undertaken a fundamental review of how this is managed and controlled in partnership with an external advisor. This is part of a culture change to ensure that we fully understand what out statutory responsibilities are and that suitable controls are in place to protect staff and the public”. The statement  that the Council needs to “fully understand what our statutory (heath and safety) responsibilities are and that suitable controls are in place protect staff and the public” suggests to me that it is highly  likely that those staff who have contracted vibration white finger, may have done so because of the neglect of Thanet Council and some of its managers who either didn't know or didn't care less about what the law said on this matter. If this is true then Thanet Council could be forced to pay our £millions in legal fees, compensation and fines in what is likely to become one of the biggest local authority health and safety scandals in many years. Its worth bearing in  mind that  such massive payments are unlikely to be covered by the council insurance policies which are likely to be invalidated if TDC has failed to follow legal requirement in managing the health and safety of its staff.

I have asked for a copy of the of the health and safety review report but my request has been turned down by council officers. This refusal is, in my view, a disgraceful effort to cover up what is an extremely serious matter which the public and council staff have a right to know about! I trust that if the affected staff are being represented by trade union, that its legal team will be demanding a copy of this report.



  1. Ask for it under EIR not FOI: no exemptions and if any sought then a Public Interest Test is required ie it's in the public's interest for the public not to know.

    No councillors or staff have requested this document?

    1. although the health and safety review was mentioned in report to Cabinet which is taking place on 22 October, the review document does not appear to be included in the papers going to that meeting. The carrying out of review of health safety is first mentioned at the Governance and Audit Committee on 15 March 2015 and it was promised that the completed review would be brought back to Governance and Audit. It has not. The fact that the review does not appear to have been presented to elected councillors and that I have not been allowed to have a copy suggested to me that Thanet Council is trying to cover this matter up.