Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a type of industrial injury. It is a secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome, in which damage is caused to the nerves, muscles and blood vessels of the hand, wrist and arm by excessive exposure to handheld vibrating tools or equipment
Common symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome include the following:
- fingers feeling numb – this may be just the tips of the fingers in milder cases, but may affect the whole finger in more serious cases
- fingers change colour – the fingers change to a pale white colour, particularly when exposed to cold temperatures. The fingers can then change to red as blood returns to the fingers, resulting in a “throbbing” sensation
- tingling or pins and needles sensation
- loss of dexterity – it may be difficult to pick up smaller objects such as screws or small coins, or to fasten buttons on clothes
- loss of grip strength.
These symptoms can be intermittent at first, but with increased exposure to vibrating tools over longer periods, the symptoms can appear more frequently, last longer and may even be permanent. Unfortunately, the symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome are irreversible.
High risk work environments
There are many tools which can cause a person to develop hand arm vibration syndrome, but some of the most common include:
- pneumatic drills / jackhammers / concrete breakers
- grinders / disc cutters
- hedge trimmers
- lawn mowers
- brush cutters / garden strimmers
- chipping hammers.
Duty of care
It is not always possible to avoid using these sorts of tools in a job, but where it is unavoidable employers have a responsibility to ensure that the use of such tools does not expose an employee or contractor to a significant risk of developing hand arm vibration syndrom.
Employers are required to have safe working practices and to ensure that the equipment they provide is safe. Where the use of vibrating tools is unavoidable, an employer should ensure that your overall exposure to vibration does not exceed limits prescribed by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. These limits are calculated by the “force” of the vibrations and the amount of time spent using vibrating tools (known as the “trigger time”). Where the vibrations are mild, the equipment may be used for a longer period, compared to tools that give off powerful vibrations, which will require a much shorter period of use.
To comply with these regulations, an employer should try to provide low-vibration tools where possible, and also ensure that the equipment is in a good state of repair, as poorly maintained equipment may vibrate more than it should. Employees and contractors should be encouraged to take regular breaks from using vibrating tools, to keep their hands warm by wearing gloves and move and massage their fingers during break times.
Employers should also provide personal protective equipment (PPE), such as anti-vibration gloves, which should in themselves be appropriate for the vibration frequency of the tools to be used.
Time limit to bring a hand arm vibration syndrome compensation claim
It is important to note that most hand arm vibration syndrome compensation claims should be brought within three years of the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge is generally the date from which you first realised or suspected that your symptoms were related to the vibrating tools you were using, or when it would have been reasonable to make the connection between the symptoms and the tools you were using. This can be a tricky part of hand arm vibration syndrome compensation claims, but a member of our team will happily be able to advise you further on when your “date of knowledge” is likely to have been.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with hand arm vibration syndrome or believe you have suffered as a result of exposure to vibrations at work then please speak to our Industrial Injury lawyers to see if you have a hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) compensation claim by calling Freephone: 0808 164 0808 for a FREE, no-obligation chat. Alternatively, you can complete the request a call back form and we will call you back.