16 Aug 16
Five Ways to Fight Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
When you man a jackhammer to bring home the bacon, lasting exposure to vibrating tools and equipment can result in a serious condition with a lasting impact.
Experts say about two million U.S. workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration on the job and as many as half of them will develop Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Otherwise known as White Finger, HAVS is a permanent and irreversible medical condition in which fingers, hands and arms lose feeling and/or have continual tremors based on the aftereffects of frequent and prolonged operation of vibrating tools or machinery. Extreme cases have results in the loss of parts of or entire digits.
Tools that can cause hand-arm vibration include jackhammers, chainsaws, drills, grinders, riveters, and more. And it’s not just road construction workers who are at risk. Hand-arm vibration affects a range of industries from construction and forestry to mining and maintenance, as well as those in cold climates.
Fortunately, HAVS is preventable. Following these five tips is a good start:
- Use anti- or low-vibration tools.
- Hold them as loosely as possible and in multiple positions.
- Ensure those tools are well-maintained and inspected regularly.
- Take regular 10-minute breaks. Short bursts of work with a vibrating tool are less harmful than long period of continual vibration.
- Keep yourself (especially your hands) warm at work.
Other administrative controls include rotating workers to do the task, so no individual worker has prolonged or repeated exposure to the vibration hazard.
As a last line of defense, employers should provide anti-vibration PPE for their workers as well. Specialized products like anti-vibration work gloves that meet the requirements of the latest ANSI S2.73/ISO 10819 standard and feature padded palm technology that both reduces vibration and dampens shock and impact can further reduce the negative effects of vibration hazards on workers.
Employing the above tips combined with regular worker rotation and use of anti-vibration PPE will ensure you’re doing your part to prevent HAVS on your jobsite.