What is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome?
Vibration White Finger (VWF), also known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger, is an industrial disease caused by the continuous use of vibrating hand-held tools and equipment such as; chainsaws, pneumatic drills and power drills. Vibration White Finger as a term is slowly being replaced by the broader concept of HAVS which also accounts for the rest of the arm as opposed to just the fingers and hand exclusively.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is a widely recognised industrial disease that effects people numbered in the tens of thousands. The condition affects the nerves, muscles, arm joints and blood vessels after extensive exposure to vibration frequencies of between 5 and 2000 Hz, although the greatest risk exists between the frequencies of 5 and 150 Hz.
As with many occupational illnesses, the official recognition of an industrial disease can take decades. So although the symptoms of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome were noted at the beginning of the 20th century, the first scale used to assess the condition was not published until 1975. Despite this, Vibration White Finger was not listed as a prescribed disease in the UK until 1985 and ‘The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations’ were not created until 2005, a gap of some 80 years between discovery and official recognition. During this time many people remained ignorant of the dangers that vibrating hand tools and equipment posed and so many now suffer from HAVs symptoms. As a result of this delayed recognition, and the failure for some employers to implement safeguards many of those affected are making Vibration White Finger Claims.
VWF/ HAVS Symptoms
It is characterised by the discolouration of the extremities, often in response to external temperature changes; this is a secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome. The symptoms of VWF are a vascular element of the HAVs condition and the discoloration is often accompanied by tingling or numbness in the fingers, indicating that the blood vessels and nerves have been affected. In more severe cases, the individual may experience manual dexterity loss; where the bout can last up to an hour, wherein they may experience considerable pain and reduced grip strength.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Treatment
The first Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome treatment is to take preventative measures. Where possible; alternative techniques should be utilised to reduce the harmful nature of vibrating equipment. There are anti-vibration gloves available to power tool users, but their effectiveness can be hard to determine. The easiest way to reduce exposure is to take frequent breaks and where possible, be redeployed in a role that requires reduced vibrating tool use. You can make the biggest impact by asking to use low vibration tools; you should be using the most efficient tool for the job so you can get jobs completed more quickly, reducing your exposure.
Check all of your tools to ensure they have been properly maintained to avoid excessive vibration caused by faults and general wear; ensure that cutting tools remain sharp and effective and avoid forcing a tool or gripping it too tightly. You can also encourage good blood circulation by massaging your hands during breaks and by keeping warm.
If caught early and the source of vibration is removed from occupational work, the progression of the disease can be halted and in some cases reversed. Those who are diagnosed with HAVS are highly advised to quit smoking and to avoid the cold where possible.
In advanced cases however, the progression of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome can continue even if the source of vibration is removed; in extreme cases fingers may be lost.
As of 2005, employers have a legal obligation, or ‘Duty of Care’ to their employees to assess and indentify measures to control and reduce vibration levels. They must also provide protective equipment where appropriate as well as providing health and safety training on the subject, and installing surveillance where possible to monitor tool use.
Why Beacon Law?
If you believe that you, or someone you know may be affected by the aforementioned symptoms, It is important that you make a Vibration White Finger Claim. If successful, it could give you the financial security you need to transition to a new role to aid your recovery.
The responsibility to monitor and prevent the onset of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome lies with your employer. They legally have a ‘duty of care’, to ensure that they provide a safe working environment and to carry out regular risk and safety assessments to ensure employee safety. If your occupation requires the extensive use of vibrating hand tools, you should be provided with detailed information on risk factors, as well as protective equipment and training so that you can protect yourself.
If your employer is found to be negligent in providing protection and safeguards for you and your colleagues, it is possible that other staff may be affected, adding to the weight of a Vibration White Finger Compensation claim. So if you feel that your employer has not provided you with the care, information and equipment you required, and you suffered as a result, contact us to make a Personal Injury Claim today.