Construction employers will be liable for billions of pounds of claims as a result of vibrations legislation that comes into force next week

Legal experts have warned that the Control of Vibration at Work regulation, which aims to protect workers from damage caused by operating mechanical tools, could cost all industries a total of £9bn as a result of claims by known sufferers. Construction and motor repair organisations are expected to be the hardest hit.

David Wiggs of solicitor Vizards Wyeth said the legislation meant that workers would be able to claim retrospectively against all previous employers that had broken the legislation.

He said: “The effects of vibration-caused diseases are cumulative. So if a worker happens to develop white finger syndrome then all employers past and present who broke the safety regulations are potentially liable.”

Wiggs said that this could cause claims of about £30,000 for each affected worker. He said: “If an average figure of £30,000 is taken, which may well be on the low side, then the total compensation due to the 300,000 workers who have already reported hand-arm vibration would be in the region of £9bn.”

Total compensation due to the 300,000 workers affected could be in the region of £9bn

David Wiggs, Vizards Wyeth

Wiggs said legal costs and future claims could add “many billions to the outlay of employers and insurers.”

Sheena Sood, a partner at law firm Beale & Company, said claims would be most likely to come from workers already suffering from disorders such as white finger syndrome, and that the construction sector would be particularly hit.

She said: “The construction industry has not got much of a track record in dealing with vibration issues, but companies will now have to take notice of the regulations or risk greater claims and prosecutions.”