Tradies face dangers of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs)


Tradies Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome HAVS Using power tools and equipment that vibrates can cause the dangerous condition of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which, if not treated, may  require the amputation of the fingers or hand.

A Safe Work Australia (SWA) fact sheet on HAVS says the condition is “commonly experienced by workers who regularly use tools such as jackhammers, chainsaws, grinders, drills, riveters and impact wrenches”. The UK Government Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states those most at risk are workers using hammer action tools for more than 15 minutes each day.

HAVS is a range of conditions that includes carpal tunnel syndrome, ‘tennis elbow’ and painful ‘vibration white finger’ – when the fingers go white. Vibration whie finger is caused by long term exposure to vibration is often worse in cold conditions. Symptoms are tingling and numbness in the fingers, a loss of strength and pain in the hands or arms.

SAW says symptoms are caused by exposure to vibration that leads to “disrupted circulation in the hand and forearm and/or damage to nerves and tendons, muscles, bones and joints of the hand and arm.”

The UK HSE describes the damage caused as irreversible. The good news is that but that simple and affordable precautions can prevent HAVS.

Part of that is understanding the vibration output of a particular tool or piece of machinery. Many have a vibration magnitude rating (in m/s2) enabling the user to understand the vibration levels they are being subjected to during use. With this information, the UK HSE hand arm vibration calculator and ready reckoner can be consulted for assessment.ready reckone

However this information should not be completely replied upon. OHSonline states that the m/s2 quoted by manufacturers relates to “as-new” tools and that vibration can increase with age and wear of both tools and accessories. The HSE says that “health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage”, while ignoring symptoms or dangers can result in significant costs to both businesses and their staff.

The 2012 Safe Work Australia Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome fact sheet says while there are no mandatory exposure levels in Australia, European requirements should be followed.These suggest daily vibration exposure (an eight hour day) remains under 2.5 m/s2 and should never be more than 5 m/s2 over an 8 hour day.

The fact sheet states that safety gloves should not be relied upon by workers to reduce vibration because thick gloves may potentially increasing vibration exposure because of the extra force required to grip the tool.

However 2003 research into anti-vibration gloves found they reduced transmission of vibration while 2007 research had similar findings, the latter finding gloves more effective at high frequencies. Both gloves tested adhered to International Standards ISO 10819.

ProChoice’s ProSense ONE Plus – Anti Vibration Glove are designed to provide improved grip and reduce vibration transmission with an anti-vibration foam padded palm.

How to reduce risks of  Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs):
Use tools with low-vibration that are designed specifically for an application.
Maintain your tools and keep your accessories sharp.
Minimise extended exposure to vibration by mixing up your jobs.
 Do not grip tools too tight.
 Ensure your hands remain dray and warm and massage and exercise the fingers to encourage blood flow. Quitting smoking will also help.

About Author

Paramount Safety Products is the name behind the ProChoice brand of high quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Paramount Safety Products was founded by the late Rob Bird in 1992 and now employs 45 people throughout an extensive distribution network. Offices and distribution warehouses are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

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