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Addressing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) in the Workplace

June 4, 2020
September 30, 2020
Published 
Man using power tool to cut hole in wall

Imagine losing your ability to pick up small objects, sense temperature, or feel the texture of a surface. 


For those with Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome, also known as White Finger Syndrome, this is their daily reality. After using power tools that vibrate over and over, they begin to lose sensation in their fingertips and the symptoms can creep up into their hands and arms. 


Fortunately, there are many ways to limit the risk associated with using vibrating power tools by creating a more ergonomic working environment. Protection in the workplace begins with education and preparation. 


Signs of White Finger Syndrome

Early symptoms of White Finger Syndrome include numbness, shaking, and tingling in the hands. Over time, the blood vessels and nerves in the fingers, hands, and arms begin to constrict and the fingers turn white followed by a red flush and throbbing sensation in the rest of the hand. 


After a number of years, the attacks can become severe, particularly in colder weather. The syndrome is extremely frustrating and unpleasant. Sufferers may find themselves unable to hold objects properly and experience pain in their fingers and hands. In extreme cases, some sufferers can even lose fingers. 


For doctors, Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is difficult to treat. It’s always best to start with prevention techniques. 


If your employees use vibrating equipment in their daily work, there are certain steps and precautions you can take to ensure their safety. 


Improving Vibration Ergonomics
Prevention begins with acknowledging the level of exposure to vibration present for your workers. Look for ways to monitor and measure their time using tools.

Encourage Employees to Loosen Their Grip
Using a loose grip is also a reasonable strategy for combating Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. Encourage your employees to grip the tool comfortably, tightly enough that it doesn’t slip, but not so tightly that they constrict their blood vessels around the tool. 


Offer The Right Equipment

The more you know about HAVS, the more empowered you can be to make the right buying decisions and keep your workers safe. Here are some examples of equipment that can affect your employees’ exposure to prolonged vibrations.

High-Quality Tools:
First and foremost, make sure your employees have high-quality equipment that is sharp-edged and fully charged, ready for its task. The better the quality of your equipment, the less time your employees will spend using each tool and the less effort they’ll need to exert. Look for ergonomically designed tools and padded handles/grips that help absorb vibration.

Wristbands: There are wristbands on the market that register levels of vibrational exposure for your employees. This technology can be expensive, but it’s worth looking into if your team consistently spends lots of time using heavily vibrating tools.

Protective Gloves: While the wristbands can be expensive, purchasing gloves that are made to absorb vibrations is a cost-effective way of adding a level of protection for your employees. Gloves that reduce the effects of vibration are often rubberized, acting as a shock absorber. This style of glove can be found in your local home improvement stores.


Encourage Safe Usage of Vibrational Tools
The best step you can take at no cost is timing the usage of vibrational tools at your worksites. Encourage your employees to take breaks at least once every twenty minutes. 


You can also create rotational patterns for your employees so that one person doesn’t have to absorb the impact of all the vibrations created on a worksite. 


How Work-Fit Can Help
Work-Fit applies sports medicine techniques in workplaces. We can help you create a plan for your employees that will educate them on using tools safely and effectively. Contact our specialists today for a personalized strategy.

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