Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS)
Although it’s a very preventative condition, there are still 205 new cases of hand-arm vibration, and in 2019, and 135 of carpal tunnel.
Using handheld, hand-fed, or hand-guided tools or machines can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome or carpal tunnel syndrome. All these conditions are preventable. But once the damage is done, it’s done.
It’s irreversible, and it’s painful and disabling. An estimated five million people in Britain are regularly exposed to habits through their work activities.
Health and Safety is an integral part of everyday operations to every industry. I know more so when it comes to abrasive applications. For example, in industries such as metal fabrication, foundry, gardening, aerospace, and rail. Ensuring these processes and systems are the safest they can be will help to create an efficient and safe workplace.
What is hand-arm vibration?
Hand-arm vibration comes from the transfer of vibration from power tools and equipment to the operator’s hand, which can lead to tingling and numbness in the fingers. HAVs consists of three components: vascular damage to blood vessels, neurological damage to nerve endings, and musculoskeletal manipulation issues. The warning signs of HAVs include tingling, numbness, and an ability to feel things with their fingers. Also includes a loss of strength to the hands and vibration white finger. And this is related to poor blood circulation through the damaged vessels and turns fingers white, especially in cold or damp conditions.
As the blood returns to the fingers, they go red and can suffer intense pain. Continuation of high vibration power tools will only lead to these symptoms getting worse with handheld or hand-guided power tools for more than a few hours each day can lead to damage in the nerves, blood vessels, and joints of the hand, wrists, and arm.
Controlling the risks from hand-arm vibration
Factors affecting the level of risk from HAVs are complex, and there’s so many which lead to poor understanding of risk management. This includes how the equipment is operated, the worker’s posture and grip, whether operators work in conditions that are cold or wet, and if the operator has a history of previous injuries, such as using vibrating machinery outside. However, the significant factors are the vibration magnitude of the tool, how long the equipment is used for, and how many vibration processes the work is exposed to as the impact of exposure is cumulative.
By changing the way the operator works, so that their time on the machine is reduced or removed altogether, is ideal. If this is not possible, then it’s recommended that workers be protected from HAVs through using alternative non-vibrating methods or automating a task used or alternating vibrating and non-vibrating work, rotating vibrating work amongst several people, and using the best tools available.
As the HSE advises, the best way of controlling exposure to hand-arm vibration is to find ways to eliminate or reduce the exposure to vibration. Simple changes like selecting the best tools and products can not only provide a significant reduction in vibration exposure but improve productivity as well.
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