Long-term, regular exposure to hand arm vibration (HAV) leads to potentially permanent and debilitating health effects, such as vibration white finger and carpal tunnel syndrome, generally known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hand, wrist and arm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder of the nerves in the wrist which may involve pain, tingling, numbness and weakness of the hand and or wrist. Both can become severely disabling if early symptoms are ignored. Although symptoms can occur naturally exposure to vibration is known to be a causal factor.
HAV is caused by the use of work equipment and work processes that transmit vibration into the hands and arms of employees. The vibration source can be hand-held power tools such as hammer drills, sanders, grinders, concrete breakers; hand-guided equipment such as powered lawnmowers, chainsaws, and hedge trimmers; or it can be the result of holding materials being processed by machines such as bench-mounted and pedestal grinders and polishing mops. Any work that causes tingling or numbness in the hands after five to ten minutes may put the worker at risk from HAV.
The early signs of vibration white finger (VWF) include tingling and numbness, being unable to feel through fingers, and loss of strength in the hands. In the cold and wet fingers will turn white and then red accompanied by pain when recovering. Continued use of high-vibration tools will make the occurrence of these symptoms more frequent and prolonged until they eventually become permanent. Vibration white finger is extremely painful and debilitating; it can start in one or two fingers but will spread to affect a whole hand if exposure to vibration continues. In this case the affected person may become unable to use that hand to pick things up.
Employers have a legal duty to ensure that their workforce do not suffer health risks as a result of exposure to hand arm vibration (HAV). Regulations set both Exposure Limit Values and Exposure Action Values.
See also; Whole Body Vibration