Using vibrating tools and equipment can cause a condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS. The condition dates back as far as the early 1900s and was called vibration-induced white finger at that time. Current data shows that approximately 2 million American workers may be at risk for HAVS due to exposure to vibrations in their jobs.
Many industries rely on power tools to remain productive. Some of the at-risk industries include maintenance work, construction, forestry, mining and jobs in cold climates. More specifically, workers who routinely use tools like jackhammers, chain saws, grinders, drills and others may be exposed to hand-arm vibrations.
Unfortunately, it can take months or even years for the condition to develop and many workers confuse HAVS with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Some of the symptoms of HAVS include:
-- Loss of sensation in the fingers
-- Tingling in the fingers
-- Blanching or whitening of fingers in cold weather
-- Loss of grip strength
-- Development of bone cysts in fingers or wrists
According to a biomechanical engineer with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, once a worker's fingers begin to blanch, HAVS cannot be reversed. Prevention is the best way to avoid developing the illness. Workers who use vibrating tools should take care to keep their hands warm, take periodic breaks and use as light a grip as possible to prevent HAVS.
Employers should ensure all workers receive the proper training on the use of vibrating tools. Other prevention measures include proper tool maintenance, the use of vibration isolators and requiring that workers limit the amount of time they use such equipment.
Oklahoma workers who are experiencing any of the symptoms of HAVS should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Workers' compensation can help victims of HAVS cope with the expenses related to treatment of the syndrome. The advice of a workers' comp attorney may also be beneficial.
Source: Safety Health, "Hand-arm vibration syndrome," Sarah Trotto, accessed Aug. 17, 2016