Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) can arise from prolonged use of combustion engine powered hand tools.
Newcastle City Council’s grounds maintenance teams use combustion engine-powered hand tools such as lawnmowers, leaf blowers, strimmers and hedge trimmers.
Employers that fail to adequately plan their working methods and train employees on the risks to their health, may face prosecution. A recent case resulted in a council being fined £100,000.
Newcastle City Council inspections of the equipment used by its grounds maintenance teams resulted in the introduction of strict limits regarding the duration that this equipment could be used safely. This severely constrained the team’s operational effectiveness and efficiency.
Industry sources claim the energy costs for a month’s use of a battery-powered mower is around the same cost as using a 2-stroke petrol product for a single day.
Solving the problem
In August 2019, Urban Foresight provided advice on the options for alternative battery-powered, grounds maintenance equipment based on experience from working with other local authorities.
Battery-powered equipment vibrates at considerably lower levels than petrol alternatives which should permit safe, all-day use. Operating and maintenance costs are also much lower.
Industry sources claim the energy costs for a month’s use of a battery-powered mower is around the same cost as using a 2-stroke petrol product for a single day, furthermore, there is no need to change filters, oil or spark plugs.
Switching to electric equipment, however, raised a number of operational considerations. Urban Foresight worked with the council to establish regimes for recharging equipment and adopting common battery standards to ensure interoperability.
In November 2019, the Council’s Assistant Director of Operations advised that following a successful initial trial, £20,000 of risk mitigation funding had been secured for procurement of a comprehensive selection of battery-powered grounds maintenance equipment. This included hedge trimmers, blowers, strimmers and mowers.
This equipment was deployed in a full-scale, operational field trial in Spring 2020.
As well as the safety and environmetnal benefits, analysis by Urban Foresight identified that this could result in the equivalent saving of up to £3,000 per year for each electric mower deployed.