Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

Understanding Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) for Workplace Safety

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and disabling condition caused by prolonged exposure to vibration in the workplace.

The condition can develop from the use of:

  • handheld power tools (e.g., grinders, jackhammers),
  • hand-guided equipment (e.g., powered lawnmowers, pedestrian-controlled floor saws),
  • or by manually feeding materials into machinery (e.g., pedestal grinders, forge hammers).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines HAVS:

“HAVS results from prolonged exposure to vibration, specifically affecting the hands and forearms of individuals who use vibrating tools.

Common symptoms include numbness, tingling, and loss of nerve sensitivity in the affected areas”.

Why understanding about HAVS is so important

Understanding Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is crucial, especially in the context of workplace safety and employee health? Let’s delve into the reasons.

Permanent Damage:

One of the most alarming aspects of HAVS is that it is preventable, but once the damage occurs, it is permanent.

HAVS can cause problems with the hands and fingers, hindering the ability to perform tasks and complete daily activities. These problems include:

  • Numbness and tingling: This can make it difficult to feel things with the fingers, impacting dexterity and the ability to perform delicate tasks like putting on buttons or handling small objects.
  • Weakness: Grip strength may be reduced, making it difficult to hold onto tools or objects securely. This could pose a safety hazard in some jobs.
  • Finger discolouration: Fingers may turn white (blanching) when exposed to cold or damp environments. As they warm back up, they may become red and painful. This can make working outdoors in cold weather very uncomfortable.

Overall, HAVS can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and enjoy daily activities.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Health Surveillance:

Regular health surveillance is crucial in detecting early signs of HAVS. Timely intervention at the early stages of the syndrome can prevent its progression to more severe and debilitating conditions, thereby safeguarding the health of employees.

Reducing Exposure:

Understanding HAVS enables employers to take proactive steps to reduce exposure to hand-transmitted vibration. Implementing measures such as carefully selecting tools, modifying work practices, and providing appropriate personal protective equipment can significantly mitigate the risks associated with HAVS.

Risk Assessment:

Conducting a thorough risk assessment for HAVS is essential for employers to understand and manage the potential risks associated with vibration exposure. By identifying these risks, employers can implement necessary control measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

Hand-arm vibration in Great Britain This summary presents statistics based on annual new assessments for IIDB up to and including year 2022.

Legal Considerations:

In an effort to better protect workers from vibration-related risks, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 was introduced, coming into force in July 2005.

Employers have legal responsibilities to protect their workers from harm in the workplace. Understanding HAVS ensures compliance with health and safety regulations, reducing the likelihood of legal issues arising due to negligence in providing a safe working environment.

In Conclusion…

Awareness and understanding of HAVS are paramount for creating safer work environments and safeguarding the well-being of employees. Employers should prioritise education, thorough risk assessment, and the implementation of preventive measures to address this occupational health concern effectively.

By taking proactive steps to mitigate the risks associated with HAVS, employers can foster a culture of safety and ensure the long-term health and productivity of their workforce.

Protect your workforce from HAVS risks! Act now and contact Green Hat Consulting to develop a customised safety plan for your company.