A warehouse worker says his "whole life has been impacted" after developing a life-changing condition while using vibrating tools for his job - as those affected instruct lawyers.

Paul Janes, from Marlow, is one of more than 20 workers who have started a legal battle against PSV Glass and Glazing Ltd in High Wycombe, after they were fined £200,000 for health and safety breaches.

Dozens of technicians working for the company, based in Hillbottom Road, were left with hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) after using vibrating tools called Fein cutters - sometimes for their entire shift.

The tool was used as part of a cutting process when removing windows and screens from commercial vehicles such as trains, trams, buses and coaches.

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Symptoms of HAVS include attacks of whitening of the fingers, tingling and loss of sensation, loss of grip strength, and pain and cold sensations between whitening attacks.

An investigation undertaken by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that before ceasing use of the Fein cutter in mid-2019, PSV Glass and Glazing Limited failed to adequately assess the risks of using vibrating tools, put in place measures to control the risk, provide suitable instruction and training on the risks to employees and place the employees under suitable health surveillance to monitor their condition.

Bucks Free Press: Paul JanesPaul Janes

After PSV were fined £211,290.04 at Reading Crown Court, lawyers at Irwin Mitchell have been instructed to start proceedings by a number of workers, including Mr Janes, 47.

He started working for PSV in December 2006 as a forklift driver and warehouse man.

In around 2012, he began going out on jobs as a second man with the fitters and undertook project work, before starting work towards becoming a first man in 2016 which involved more use of a Fein cutter. He estimated he would be operating the tool for around 45 minutes per job, and on average would complete three to four jobs per shift.

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He also reported that working on the tubes required greater use of the Fein cutter and was “harder on the hands”.

He first noticed a tingling sensation on the tips of his fingers around November 2017. By the start of 2018, they were turning white.

His condition worsened over the next year, and he continues to suffer from symptoms on a daily basis including cramps and locking in both hands.

Bucks Free Press: Paul's injuriesPaul's injuries

He said: “I recall that one of my colleagues that I worked alongside as a second man, suffered badly with this hands. I remember him saying it was years of exposure, but I thought that if I wore the anti-vibration gloves we were provided and tried to use the cutter less, I would be okay.

“In January 2019, I was sent a letter from PSV stating that I was not permitted to use the Fein cutter or any handheld power tools. That September I was taken off all tools and glass fitting altogether, which was recommended by my doctor due to my hand cramping. I’m now back in the warehouse.

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“I’m aware of a number of other colleagues and former colleagues who have also suffered from HAVS.

“Since developing the condition, I am unable to go swimming or fishing, both of which I used to really enjoy. Even meeting my friends for a drink is something I do less of as I find the attacks of whitening embarrassing, and I struggle to do simple jobs such as washing my car. I also have to get someone in to do any decorating or DIY.

“Had I not developed HAVS, my plan was to work my way up in my career or start out on my own, but this is no longer an option for me.

“I feel like my whole life has been impacted by this and, while I can’t change it, I deserve some answers for what I’ve been put through – everyone does.”

Bucks Free Press: PSVPSV

Alex Shorey, the specialist industrial injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing a number of those affected, said: “We represent many people in their 30s and 40s who have gone on to develop HAVS they believe as a result of using this specific tool during their employment with PSV Glass and Glazing Limited.

“HAVS has a severe effect on a person’s daily life and future employment prospects. Sufferers go on to develop a loss of feeling, pain and a lack of fine motor skills in their hands which results in them struggling to work, particularly within the same industry.

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"They can also find simple everyday tasks, such as doing up buttons and picking things up, challenging. In addition, the condition often deteriorates over time and there is currently no cure.

“Undoubtedly, our clients’ experiences will be all too familiar to many others affected by HAVS.

“While nothing can make up for what they are going through we welcome the HSE’s prosecution and hope it reminds all employers of their responsibilities to ensure the safety of their workers.

“We’ll continue to support those we represent in order to help them access the specialist care and therapies they require because of their condition so they can move forward with their lives as best they can.”