According to the Health & Safety Executive, almost two million British employees are at risk of developing HAVS (hand-arm vibration syndrome). While the number of new cases of this disabling work related condition has declined significantly over the past ten years, almost 300,000 workers are already permanently affected by it.
HAVS is a term used for several related work induced conditions, including vibration white finger and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Causing symptoms in the arms, hands and fingers, HAVS is the direct result of working with vibrating tools and machinery for prolonged periods. The condition causes changes in the sufferer’s sensory perception, which can eventually lead to muscle weakness; permanent numbness and blanching of the fingers (vibration white finger).
Causes of HAVS
It is believed that frequent and repeated use of vibrating tools (chainsaws, pneumatic or power drills, etc) and working with vibrating machinery causes repeated slight, but potentially permanent damage to small blood vessels and nerves in the fingers. Over time, this damage can result in these blood vessels and nerves ceasing to function and causing the symptoms of HAVS.
HAVS symptoms include nerve-related symptoms and the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon (result of blood vessel damage). Minor damages to bones, joints and muscles may also cause loss of strength, as well as aching and pain in the lower arm and hands.
Symptoms of nerve damage and include pins and needles and/or numbness, which may become permanent in severe cases. Difficulty in performing fine tasks (fastening buttons; handling coins, nails, screws, threads, and so on) and clumsiness may also be experienced.
The symptoms of this phenomenon typically come in attacks or bouts lasting minutes or hours at a time. They are usually triggered by touching cold objects or cold weather and include fingers going uncomfortably cold and white, then bluish in colour, before eventually going bright red. These bouts may be accompanied by throbbing, tingling and pain.
Like many accidents at work, HAVS can be prevented. Measures to reduce employees’ exposure to vibration are simple and cost-effective. Where reduction of exposure is not possible, workers’ health should be monitored to enable detection of and response to early symptoms. If your employer failed to implement relevant measures and you suffer from HAVS as a result, you may be entitled to work injury compensation. Get advice on how to claim by making a confidential call to Accident Advice Helpline on 0800 689 0500 now.
Date Published: February 27, 2015
Author: Accident Advice