Hand Arm Vibration (HAV)
What is it?
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a widespread recognised industrial disease affecting tens of thousands of workers. It is a disorder which affects the blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and joints, of the hand wrist and arm. Its best known effect is vibration-induced white finger’ (VWF).
The effects of excessive exposure to Hand Arm Vibration can result in various patterns of diseases casually known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, more commonly known as ‘Vibration White Finger’. This can affect nerves, joints, muscles, blood vessels or connective tissues of the hand and forearm.
- Tingling ’whiteness’ or numbness in the fingers. (blood vessels and nerves) This may not be noticeable at the end of a working day, and in mild cases may affect only the tips of the fingers. As the condition becomes more severe, the whole finger down to the knuckles may become white. Feeling may also be lost.
- Fingers Change colour (Blood vessels) With continued exposure the person may suffer periodic attacks in which the fingers change colour when exposed to the cold. Initially the fingers rapidly become pale and feeling is lost. This phase is followed by an intense red flush (sometimes preceded by a dusky bluish phase) signalling the return of blood circulation to the fingers and is usually accompanied by uncomfortable throbbing.
- Loss of manual dexterity (Nerves & Muscles) In more severe forms; attacks may occur frequently in cold weather, not only at work, but during leisure activities, such as gardening, car washing or even watching outdoor sports; and may last up to an hour causing considerable pain and loss of manual dexterity and reduced grip strength.
- Muscle Fatigue & reduced hand grip strength (Muscles).
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Muscles and nerves) Carpal tunnel syndrome affects the nerves and muscles of the wrist and hand and can be due to conditional twisting of the wrist. It can be caused by Hand-Arm Vibration, although it can be brought on through other causes.
As the condition worsens, the attacks can occur even in warm surroundings and may affect the persons sleeping habits. Pain and stiffness in the hands and joints of the wrists, elbows and shoulder can occur.
Who is at risk?
Those who use powered hand held tools on a regular basis whether it be a chainsaw or power hammer or chisel. The associated risks remain the same. Any Vibrating tool or process, which causes tingling or numbness after 5 to 10 minutes of continuous use is suspect.
Individuals most at risk are those whose jobs require regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment. Such jobs are found in a wide range of industries, including:
- Road and railway construction and maintenance
- Concrete Products
- Light and Heavy Engineering
- Mining and Quarrying
- Metal Working
- Stone Masonry
- Wood Work
- Public Services
- Public Utilities
There are hundreds of tools which can expose operators to hand-arm vibration, and hence put them at risk of developing HAVS. Higher-risk processes include drilling, compacting, riveting, caulking, hammering, grinding and polishing, and cutting metal or stone.
Are you prepared?
With an increasing amount of legislation concerning human exposure to vibration many companies are faced with the challenge to determine which information is correct and up to date which can be somewhat confusing. To successfully protect your workforce from the effects of Hand Arm Vibration it is vital that you the employer has in place effective Hand Arm Vibration Management Systems- Measure, Monitor and crucially prevent any risks associated with Hand Arm Vibration. As an employer you are legally obliged to provide training on health risks and the safe use of equipment to ensure that your workforce is fully aware of the problems associated with Hand Arm Vibrations
How we can help
We can carry out onsite testing and assessment of all your plant, tools and equipment. We can also implement a tailor made Hand Arm Vibration Management systems to suit your requirements which will also help you fully comply with all legislation.
Current Legislation (directive 2002/44/EC) gives instructions relating to the level at which action must be taken (EAV – 2.5m/s²) and a max daily limit (ELV – 5m/s²).
It should be noted that any worker already identified as needing to work to lower levels will already have a programme in place.