Accident Advice Helpline (an established law firm in the UK) receive many calls each year from people who are suffering from a condition called hand-arm vibration syndrome or vibration white finger. The people who call them are in considerable pain and discomfort; they are finding the condition debilitating and want to know more about vibration white finger injury claims.
The claims process for vibration white finger injury claims is very similar to that for other occupational injuries and diseases. Where the injured person can show that they have been injured because of someone else’s fault then they may be able to claim compensation. The process is summarised here.
Vibration white finger injury claims – the diagnosis
Each vibration white finger case is different; however, many start with nerve symptoms initially. The sufferer notices a loss of feeling and/or tingling (pins and needles) in one or more fingers of the affected hand(s). Initially this can be quite mild and may just affect the finger tips at first. Then, the white finger symptoms (Raynaud’s phenomenon) start and this includes:
- The small blood vessels in the hands go into spasm and become much narrower than before – this reduces the blood supply to the fingers and so they feel cool and appear to be pale or white
- As the blood supply becomes even further reduced, the oxygen is quickly used up and the fingers can turn blue
- The spasm eventually stops and the blood vessels open back up again. The blood flows back into the affected fingers and they may go bright red – as the blood vessels dilate there may also be tingling, throbbing and pain
As the symptoms progress medical attention is sought and a diagnosis made.
Vibration white finger injury claims – the cause
The exact mechanism that causes vibration white finger is not entirely understood but several things are known about it. It is caused by repeated and frequent use of hand-held vibrating tools. These are the type of tools that are typically used in heavy manual work and they can include:
- Power drills
- Pneumatic drills
These tools probably cause a small injury that occurs over and over again and damages the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Over time these injuries may cause a loss of function and symptoms start to appear. It has been estimated that up to 1 in 10 workers who use vibrating tools regularly may develop vibration white finger.
Vibration white finger injury claims – prevention
There are some common-sense precautions that will reduce the risk a vibration white finger developing. They are:
• Holding the tools as loosely as possible and varying the positions
• Making sure that the tools are working properly
• Making sure that you are using the correct tools for the job – when people use the wrong tools they tend to use an excessive grip and may use the tool for longer than necessary
• Taking regular breaks (these should last for at least 10 minutes) – it has been shown that short bursts of work are less risky than prolonged work periods
• Keep hands warm when working
• Avoiding smoking – tobacco chemicals affect blood flow.
Date Published: 7th May 2013
Author: Sharon Parry