Safety in the work environment is the most important of all work aspects. This is the foundation from which productivity, great company culture and cultural impact are built. Without proper safety protocols, the rest cannot be accomplished successfully.
That is why the conversation around Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is so important. HAVS is a condition that can seriously alter the quality of life of anyone who is affected by it.
What is HAVS?
Shaun from HAVS testing firm Principal Power Tools said “Hand-arm vibration syndrome is a condition in which your fingers, hands and arms experience differing levels of numbness, weakening of the muscles and in some cases, white fingers. What exactly does this affect in your body?”
HAVS mainly affects 3 different areas:
- Nervous System
- Vascular System
- Skeletal System
As you can imagine, those affected by HAVS are those that use vibrating tools consistently in their daily lives or work. The constant exposure to powerful vibrations inevitably does damage to the nerves, veins, arteries and skeletal elements of your arms and hands.
What are the Symptoms of HAVS?
One good aspect of HAVS is that the symptoms are clear and noticeable. That means with early detection, you can make the necessary changes to your behaviour that will reduce the risk of increased issues later in life. What are the symptoms of HAVS?
- Numbness and Tingling in the Fingers
This is the first symptom that is typically noticed by those with HAVS. Fingers will have the feeling of “pins and needles” and become to feel numb. This can affect one or more fingers and be present at different levels of severity in each finger. This makes fine movements difficult. This symptom is caused by damage done to the nerves in your fingers.
- White Fingers (Raynaud’s)
White fingers typically come and go, most often if your hands are cold or if you are touching something cold. This is caused by the damage done to the small blood vessels which restrict the flow of blood to the ends of the fingers, leading to color changes and pain that can range from uncomfortable to excruciating.
- Lack of Grip Strength
HAVS can cause a lack of strength when grabbing and lifting objects. This can become hazardous and makes the simplest of daily tasks difficult.
- Aches and Pains
Damage to the soft tissue, nerves, cartilage and other parts of the skeletal system will lead to aches and pains that can last for hours or days, depending on the severity of the condition.
Who Is at Risk of Getting HAVS?
Anyone working in an industry that depends on the use of vibrating tools such as construction work, demolition, renovations and more is at risk. In the UK alone, there have been over 5000 cases of HAVS reported in the years between 2010 and 2019.
These numbers may seem low but the HSE admits that these numbers are likely far underreported. Why? These numbers are based on worker’s compensation statistics. This means that anyone who has not reported and received compensation for their injuries is not accounted for.
What Can Be Done to Prevent HAVS?
To prevent HAVS, avoid using vibrating tools consistently. If you need to use these tools for your employment, plan to use them in a way that interrupts the constant vibration of your hands and arms.
Can HAVS Be Reversed Once Symptoms Begin?
The onset of hand-arm vibration syndrome can be halted by eliminating the use of vibrating tools. If this happens early enough in the process of this condition, symptoms may disappear. However, if the exposure to consistent vibrations was long and severe enough, symptoms will continue to be a part of your life.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome can be a severe and life-altering condition. Make sure to take any precautionary measures possible to avoid the long-term impacts of this avoidable but challenging issue.