Hand-Arm Vibration Measurement - Health and Safety - Noise and Vibration
HAVS refers to a condition typically brought on in the workplace from vibration from the use of hand-held power tools and other powerful vibrating machinery. It is a painful, disabling and irreversible condition affecting blood vessels, nerves and joints which over time can stop people from carrying out normal everyday tasks and cause disability, or in extreme cases the need for amputation. The condition can affect the body parts that make up your hand, wrist and arm and may develop slowly over time, becoming more severe the longer exposure occurs for.
Other related conditions caused by vibration and often covered generically under the HAVS term include Reynaud’s Syndrome and Vibration White Finger.
Reynaud’s Phenomenon: describes a condition which leads to the extremities of the fingers, toes and ears to become white which can be caused from the use of vibrating power tools. Vibration White Finger Syndrome (also known as VWF) refers to Reynaud’s Syndrome when it only affects the fingers and thumb of the hand.
- How to recognise early symptoms of HAVS:
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers, or not being able to feel things with your fingers. If you continue to use vibrating power tools then overtime the numbness in your hands could become permanent and you won’t be able to feel anything thing at all.
- Loss of strength in your hands, your grip may weaken and you may be less able to pick up or hold heavy objects. Overtime this could get worse and make it difficult for you to pick up small objects such as screws or nails.
- In the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers go white then red and are painful on recovery (vibration white finger)
Fines and Compensation Claims for HAVS
If HAVS is caused in the workplace from continuous or excessive use of vibrating power tools it is a reportable industrial disease, and in many countries including the UK and European Union if workers can prove their employer has been negligent and their work has caused the condition (or industrial disease) they might be entitled to compensation. This compensation often depends on the extent of and how painful their HAVS condition is, their age, whether any permanent disability has been caused and whether they are able to carry on working.
The company will also more than likely be fined by the governing Health and Safety body in their country.
Tools that can cause HAVS include:
- concrete breakers, concrete pokers
- disc cutters
- hammer drills
- chipping hammers, power hammers
- brush cutters, hedge trimmers
- powered mowers
- scabblers or needle guns
- cut-off saws (for stone etc)
- impact wrenches
- needle scalers
- pedestal grinders
- powered lawn mowers
People most at risk of hand-arm vibration
Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:
- building and maintenance of roads and railways
- estate management (e.g. maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and rail side verges)
- heavy engineering
- manufacturing concrete products
- mines and quarries
- motor vehicle manufacture and repair
- public utilities (eg water, gas, electricity, telecommunications)
- shipbuilding and repair.
Companies need to measure and monitor the vibration magnitude of power tools and advise workers of the maximum length of time they can use a tool (or a combination of tools) for in any given day.
The Pulsar vB meter will help you assess the risks of exposure to vibration, and monitor and tackle these issues in the workplace by providing accurate and valuable data on your power tools. You can even combine the Pulsar vB with our popular Pulsar Nova Sound Level Meter in our Vibration at Work Professional Safety Kit.
You can also download our Free Guide: 5 Steps to controlling hand-arm vibration.