Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. The Facts.

If you work with power tools of any variety, the chances are you have experienced some degree of hand-arm vibrations. While limited exposure to these vibrations is unlikely to cause any lasting damage, over exposure can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome – a condition that causes pain, numbness and a tingling sensation in the hand and fingers.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that 2 million people are at risk of developing HAVS.

What is HAVS?

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome or Vibration White Finger is a debilitating condition that damages the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hands, wrists and arms. Those that operate hand-held or hand-guided power on a regular basis are significantly increasing their risk of developing the condition. HAVS or Vibration white finger are both permanent and highly debilitating and could affect your ability to work.

Early Symptoms include:

  • Loss of feeling in the fingers
  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • Loss of strength in your hands
  • Tips of your fingers going white, then red and painful.

If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms may get worse, for example:

  • Permanent numbness in hands leading to a complete loss of feeling
  • Inability to pick up small objects such as screw or nails
  • The vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of your fingers

For a more detailed breakdown of symptoms and health effects, read this guide by the HSE.

Who is at risk of developing HAVS?

Assess who is at risk how they are at risk and look for ways to avoid or reduce the risk. Basically, you are at risk from HAVS or Vibration White Finger if you use hand held or guided tools such as:

  • Concrete breakers,
  • Sanders
  • Grinders
  • Hammer drills
  • Chipping hammers
  • Chainsaws
  • Hedge trimmers
  • Powered mowers

How can you reduce the risks?

Ultimately it is your employer’s responsibility to protect you against HAVS or Vibration White Finger, but you should remain vigilant and be conscious of the early symptoms. If it is possible try to find a way in which you can do your job without using vibrating tools and machines. If this is not an option, then:

  • Use suitable low-vibration tools.
  • Ensure tools are properly maintained and repaired to avoid increased levels of vibration
  • Take regular breaks from using vibrating
  • Avoid gripping or forcing a tool more than required
  • Store tools so the handles are not cold when in use
  • Keep warm and encourage good circulation

This post was written by Asons Solicitors. If you would like to learn more or better understand HAVS or Vibration White Finger, or claims process, information is available at www.asons.co.uk, via email at info@asons.co.uk or via an expert helpline on 01204 521133

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