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Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs)

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs) is the medical term for symptoms caused by vibration damages that may occur in the fingers, hands and arms when working with vibrating tools or machinery. Vibration injuries are divided into three subgroups:

  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurological disorders
  • Vascular

Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs) is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. HAVs is serious and disabling, and nearly 2 million people are at risk.

The Control of Hand Arm Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (the Vibration Regulations), came into force on the 6th of July 2005 and aim to protect employees’ from dangers and risks to their health and well-being from vibration.

HAV can lead to adverse health effects. Numerous studies have shown that consistent and regular exposure to Hand Arm Vibration can lead to permanent adverse health problems, which are most common with contact with vibrating tools and when it becomes a consistent and momentous part of an employees’ job.

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVs), as well as specific diseases such as white finger or Raynaud’s syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. Vibration syndrome has adverse circulatory and neural effects in the fingers. The signs and symptoms include numbness, pain, tingling, blanching (turning pale and ashen), problems while working in a cold environment and difficulties picking up small objects. Also known as vibration white finger, it has been estimated by the HSE that there are 288,000 sufferers in the UK.

01


The 3 Main Symptoms

There are 3 main symptoms when its comes to Hand Arm Vibration (HAVs). These are:

  • Sensory symptoms such as tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • Poor circulation in the fingers
  • Nerve (carpal tunnel syndrome), bone and joint damage

02


Cause of White Finger?

There are various types of hand-held power tools and apparatus which can place employees’ at an increased risk of developing HAVS. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Chainsaws
  • Impulse Tools
  • Ratchet Screwdrivers
  • Concrete Breakers
  • Cut-off Saws
  • Hammer Drills
  • Hand-held Grinders
  • Impact Wrenches
  • Jigsaws
  • Pedestal Grinders
  • Polishers
  • Power Hammers
  • Power Chisels
  • Powered Lawn Mowers
  • Powered Sanders
  • Brush/Weed Cutters

03


HAVs Assessments

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations introduces a detailed “Tier system” for HAVS assessments.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 are completed by conducting assessment questionnaires.

  • Tier 1: An initial assessment before the employee starts work with vibrating tools.
  • Tier 2: An annual assessment.

Anybody disclosing any form of symptoms during Tier 1 or 2 reviews should then be subject to further more detailed assessment by an Occupational Health Specialist.

  • Tier 3: A ‘qualified health professional’ administers a wide-ranging and detailed questionnaire and conveys out a range of various clinical tests.  Those with the fitting symptoms and history advance to the next tier.
  • Tier 4: This stage is when an official diagnosis is completed.  It must be directed by a suitably qualified Occupational Health Physician. Any such formal diagnosis must be reported by the employer under RIDDOR 1995.

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