Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) Assessments in The Workplace Across The United Kingdom
Hand Arm Vibration
Hand-arm vibration (HAV) is vibration transmitted from a work process into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, hand-guided equipment, or by holding materials being processed by machines.
HAV can lead to adverse health effects
Multiple studies have shown that regular and frequent exposure to HAV can lead to permanent adverse health effects, which are most likely to occur when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular and significant part of a person’s job.
Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as white finger or Raynaud’s syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. Vibration syndrome has adverse circulatory and neural effects in the fingers. The signs and symptoms include numbness, pain, and blanching (turning pale and ashen). Also known as vibration white finger, it has been estimated by the HSE that there are 288,000 sufferers in the UK.
It has 3 main symptoms:
- Sensory symptoms such as tingling and numbness in the fingers
- Poor circulation in the fingers
- Nerve (carpal tunnel syndrome), bone and joint damage.
In its early stages symptoms are minor, and soon wear off after the vibration stops. Control at these early stages prevents the onset of more severe symptoms which can cause disability, loss of employment.
Employers duty to assess risks
New legislation is likely to introduce a limit of exposure to vibration of 2.5ms-2. Employers have a duty to assess the risks of using vibrating tools and machinery in the workplace. Where a purchasing and maintenance policy and other controls cannot eliminate the risk, health surveillance should be provided.
Tools that can cause white finger
There are many different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can place workers at increased risk of developing HAVS. Some of the more common ones are:
- impulse tools
- ratchet screwdrivers
- concrete breakers
- cut-off saws
- hammer drills
- hand-held grinders
- impact wrenches
- pedestal grinders
- power hammers
- power chisels
- powered lawn mowers
- powered sanders
- brush/weed cutters
It is difficult to assess who is at risk as there is wide personal variation in susceptibility, so a cautious approach is advised. As a rule of thumb, if you have staff using hammer action equipment for more than 30 minutes per day, or rotary equipment for 2 hours a day or more, you should provide health surveillance.
HAV Risk Assessments & Control Measures
We can advise on risk assessment and control measures, and also provide periodic (usually pre-employment and annually is recommended) health surveillance to assist you in your duty of care. We use HSE approved questionnaires and examinations.
European Physical Agents Directive—due to enter UK law in 2005
Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999