Have you heard of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)?
It is not necessarily a well-known condition, but one that can cause serious problems for those working with hand-held power tools or other vibratory equipment within there everyday work day. Over two million people in the UK are at risk from hand-arm vibration syndrome.
What is it and how can it be prevented?
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is a condition caused by the prolonged use of vibrating tools, they range from drills, chainsaws, strimmers, sanders and power mowers. If your employees use one or more of these tools on a regular basis they could be at risk of HAVS – and if they use these for more than an hour a day, your employees are likely to be at an even higher risk of developing the condition.
HAVS affects the nerves, joints, muscles, blood vessels or tissues in hands or forearms. It can cause numbness in the fingers and hands, poor circulation and chronic muscular pain. In more severe cases, it can mean that sufferers can lose the ability to use their hands normally, as they may have reduced manual dexterity and grip strength, affecting day to day life- just work.
Unfortunately, once someone has developed HAVS, it is usually permanent. However, Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is preventable. Identifying signs of HAVS in its early stage is important as you can prevent the condition from getting any worse by limiting your use of vibrating tools. and using the correct PPE.
These early symptoms can include:
Tingling and numb fingers which carry on after the tool has stopped operating.
Not being able to feel things properly with your hands and carry out normal tasks.
Loss of strength/grip in your hands.
Part of your fingers turning white in cold weather.
If your employees work with vibrating tools regularly, you as an employer also has a responsibility to protect them from the harm this may cause. If you as an employer discovers that your employees use of vibrating tools exceeds the exposure action limit, they can then take steps to reduce your exposure, ensure HAV health surveillance is carried out and make sure your employees do not exceed the exposure limit value (ELV).
If left unchecked, HAVS can be a life-long debilitating condition. Severe HAVS could also be a cause of long-term sickness absence in employees as it could mean that they are no longer able to continue in their current role.
If your employees work along side mechanical vibration equipment and you would like professional occupation health surveillance then contact us for a FREE quotation!
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