Health Topics - Hand Arm Vibration

Why worry?

  • vibration can permanently affect blood circulation
  • if areas of your body are not getting a good blood supply, they can be damaged
  • any part of your body can be affected by vibration but some of the most common parts to be affected include the fingers, arms, hands and back

Hand Arm Vibration syndrome (HAVs)

You are at risk of injury if you use high-vibration hand-held tools such as:

  • drills
  • jack hammers
  • chainsaws and other woodworking machines
  • power hammers such as caulking and chipping hammers
  • concrete breakers
  • percussive drills

When does the risk increase?

  • when you use power tools for a long time
  • when the vibration levels are high
  • when you get cold and wet
  • when you have to grip tightly
  • when it is awkward for you to use
  • when equipment is poorly maintained, ie. drill bit not sharp

What are the warning signs?

  • pins and needles and/or numbness in your fingers, especially at the end of the day
  • problems picking things up in cold weather
  • the tips of your fingers may go white
  • your fingers may become pale and you may lose the feeling in them
  • when returning to a warm room after being out in the cold, your hands may go red and feel really painful

What should you do?

Employers

Reduce hand-arm vibration and whole body vibration to a level that is as low as reasonably practicable.
The main things to consider are:

  • can the work be carried out without using high vibration tools. If not::
  • have the tools to be used been purchased with vibration controls built in or
    can they be modified to incorporate such features?
  • work should be arranged to give employees breaks from using vibrating tools
  • training should be given in the correct use of tools and how to recognise early symptoms of injury
  • arrange for advice and routine health checks for employees
  • supply heating and suitable clothing including gloves

Measures to alleviate whole-body vibration should include:

  • purchase or adaption of machinery and vehicles to incorporate low vibration
    features
  • training operators and drivers to make them aware of the importance of such things as correct posture, seat adjustment (including weight adjustment for suspended seating) and tyre pressures

Employees

  • tell supervisors if equipment is faulty - faults with equipment often result in greater levels of vibration, so get them fixed
  • take regular breaks or change jobs often if the work is repetetive
  • use low vibration tools or tools with low vibration handles wherever possible
  • try to keep the hands and body warm by wearing gloves and weatherproof clothing, warming up before starting the job, keeping warm when you take breaks and massaging your hands and fingers

For further guidance and free leaflets click here.

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