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March 1, 2017
Does your team use handheld power tools, such as industrial impact wrenches or grinders? Check out our 7 tips to reduce their exposure to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
The Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is recognized as a serious work-related disorder, which is affecting thousands of industrial workers. It is represented by damage to blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints of the wrist and arm caused by intensive and repeated vibration exposure. This exposure comes from working with vibrating tools or holding shaking materials.
The repeated hits on the fingers and hands at certain frequencies constitute a risk for the workers. There is no certainty about how this happens exactly, but numerous studies show damage to the very fine blood vessels in the hands as one probable contributor to the syndrome.
When getting cold or wet, the fingers will often react by becoming white, then red while being painful. This is called the Raynaud's phenomenon, and is also common in hand arm vibration syndrome cases.
All frequent users of power tools that vibrate during usage could be affected. Vibration level and trigger time per work shift are the key factors that together give an indication if the person is at risk. According to a Japanese long-term study on forest workers using chainsaws (Nagoya, 1994), there is a strong relation between the number of years of exposure and the prevalence of HAVS. Among the workers over 50 years of age, 38% showed signs of this syndrome. US National Safety Council estimates that about 2 million U.S. workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration today, and as many as half could develop HAVS (read full article). HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done, it is often permanent.
Many measures can be taken to reduce risk. Limiting time of vibration exposure being clearly the most important one, some other key points can be taken into account to protect yourself, your colleagues or your employees: