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Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a widespread industrial disease affecting millions of workers worldwide, how is it caused?

HAVS is an Occupational Disease that is preventable, but once the damage has been done it is permanent. It is a disabling disease which can affect the central nervous system and of which 2 million people are at risk of contracting out of 5 million that are currently exposed. This does not include cases that have already been diagnosed.

It is caused by exposure to vibration (especially from vibrating hand-held tools) and therefore is a particular problem to industry.

Effect of HAVS

HAVS is made up by a number of related conditions, which can effect the circulation, sensory and motor nerves and cause muscular-skeletal problems.

Vibration White Finger (VWF)

This is one of the most common conditions among operators of hand-held tools. The most obvious effect of VWF is where the fingers turn white during an attack. Sufferers may also lose manual dexterity and grip strength.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This is caused by a compression of the median nerve due to swelling in the carpal tunnel (located at the joint between the wrist and the hand).
Symptoms include:
bullet_point Numbness
bullet_point Pain
bullet_point Tingling in the first and second and side of the middle finger. A pins and needles sensation is created, causing weak grip and diminished strength in the hand.

These conditions may appear after only a few months on the job, or may not appear until after twenty or thirty years. It is somewhat unclear why the development of these conditions takes longer with some people. Temporary tingling (called transient) or numbness during or soon after the use of a vibrating hand tool, which many people complain of, is not considered to be HAVS. Tingling and numbness in the fingers lasting more than an hour after finishing work may indicate early stages of HAVS and should be treated seriously.

It is not clear how vibration causes HAVS, but it is probably due to slight but repeated injury to the small nerves and blood vessels in the fingers. Over time these may gradually lose some of their function and cause symptoms. Conditions are aggravated when exposed to cold or wet weather.

You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines such as:
bullet_point Concrete breakers
bullet_point Sanders, grinders, disc cutters
bullet_point Hammer drills
bullet_point Chipping hammers
bullet_point Chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers
bullet_point Powered mowers
bullet_point Scabblers or needle guns

You are also at risk if you hold work pieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders.

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