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Vibration at Work explained

Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a range of medical conditions which occur from regular use of power tools and machinery that cause hands to vibrate.  Symptoms include numbness and tingling of the fingers, loss of hand strength, inability to feel things properly and ‘blanching’, where fingers go white. HAVS often occurs in workplaces where vibrating machinery is used regularly, so it is the employer’s responsibility to reduce the risk of long term injury.

Who is at risk?

Anybody who works in manual jobs and regularly uses vibrating machinery is at risk of developing HAVS. HAVS is commonly found in employees on building, maintenance and construction sites, in managers of estates such as parks and grounds, foresters who regularly use chainsaws, mine and quarry workers, and motor vehicle manufacturers and repairers.

HAVS can cause the loss of strength and movement in hands which can reduce the ability to grip, work in cold and damp conditions, and do fiddly tasks such as fastening buttons.  It can also cause extreme pain and discomfort, particularly when hands are rapidly exposed to cold and hot environments.

Prevention of HAVS

By law, and in accordance with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, it is an employer’s responsibility to assess the risk of HAVS in his employers and take as many precautions as he can to reduce the possibility of his workforce developing problems in their hands.  This can be done in a number of ways, such as ensuring that machinery is kept in the very best condition so that it is most effective for the job and requires less handling.

Employees should also be trained to hold machinery correctly, in a way that can reduce the amount their hands are exposed to vibration.  It is also useful to advise employees on ways of keeping good blood circulation through their hands, for example wearing warm clothing and exercising, and massaging their hands regularly.