Hand-arm vibration syndrome, often referred to simply as HAVS, is also known as vibration white finger, or VWF. This condition is caused by prolonged use of vibrating tools. HAVS is a secondary form of a condition known as Raynaud’s Syndrome.
Since 1985, HAVS has been recognised as an industrial disease. Fairly widespread, HAVS is a work injury that affects blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, as well as joints and muscles of sufferers.
Workers at risk of hand-arm vibration
Anyone working on a fairly continuous basis with vibrating power tools or machinery is at risk of developing hand–arm vibration sooner or later. Such tools include, for instance:
- Vibratory compactors
- Vibrating pokers
- Jigger picks
- Hammer drills
- Concrete breakers
- Chipping hammers
- Angle grinders
Hand-arm vibration syndrome symptoms
The severity of this industrial injury‘s symptoms varies depending on how long a sufferer has been exposed to excessive vibrations. As a rule, symptoms of this injury at work increase gradually, appearing in the following progression:
- Numbness and/ or tingling in fingers
- One finger temporarily turns white and starts to ache
- Turning white of finger becomes more frequent, periods of whiteness get longer
- Other fingers begin to turn white and ache
- Attacks become increasingly frequent and very painful, often accompanied by hands shaking
- Sufferer loses strength of grip and manual dexterity
By the time two, three or more fingers have started turning white, this work-related illness is often no longer reversible. If workers are exposed to cold temperatures as well as vibrating machinery, fingers may even be lost. As these symptoms may also be signs of other conditions, this work-induced illness must be diagnosed by medical professionals with the help of a variety of specific tests.
Hand-arm vibration, employers and the law
According to the 2005 Regulations for Control of Vibration at Work, which have been in force since July 2005, employers have a legal obligation to:
- Assess/ identify adequate measures to eliminate/ reduce hand-arm vibration risks
- Ensure control measures reducing vibration are applied properly
- Ensure relevant training/ information is provided
- Provide health surveillance
In other words, employers are required to ensure tools and machinery are properly maintained in order to keep vibration at a minimum; ensure workers get sufficient breaks from using the vibrating equipment and, where appropriate, provide protective equipment, such as anti-vibration gloves, for example.
In addition, they are required to inform workers of the potential risk of developing this industrial condition, train them in the correct use of tools/ protective equipment and screen them regularly for signs of hand arm vibration.
Industrial illnesses and accidents at work
If you developed a work related condition, or were injured at work by some other work accident, you may be able to claim for compensation.
Contact Accident Advice Helpline to find out whether or not you qualify for a claim by calling the company’s free-phone number and having a confidential, no-obligation chat with one of their friendly advisers.