Vibration exposure at work can lead to discomfort in the hands and arms due to vascular and nerve damage. Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) caused by exposure to vibration at work is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. Vibration damage can manifest itself as Raynaud’s syndrome, paresthesias and carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Raynaud’s phenomenon is a problem that causes decreased blood flow to the fingers.
- Paresthesia is an abnormal sensation of the skin (tingling, pricking, chilling, burning, numbness).
- Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition that causes numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand and forearm.
Carpenters, masons and construction workers are the most exposed occupational groups. There, almost 70% have been exposed to vibrating, hand-held tools for at least a quarter of their working time. The figures for the metal craft and repair profession as well as installation and service occupations in electricity and electronics are around 40%. In total, about 400,000 men and women have a daily exposure to vibrations for at least a quarter of their working hours, according to the Swedish Work Environment Authority’s estimate.
How to protect yourself against vibration damage
It is your employer’s responsibility to protect you, but you can also activley protect yourself by:
- Using certified anti-vibration gloves.
- Reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go, by doing other jobs in between.
- Ask to use suitable low-vibration tools.
- Always use the right tool for each job.
- Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained to avoid increased vibration caused by faults or general wear.
- Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp.
- Avoid gripping or forcing a tool or workpiece more than you have to.
- Store tools so that they do not have very cold handles.
- Encourage good blood circulation by keeping warm and dry.
- Giving up smoking because smoking reduces blood flow.
- Massaging and exercising your fingers during work breaks.
Common occupations with exposure to hand-arm vibrations
- Motor vehicle mechanics and repairers
- Vehicle fitters
- Metal crafts, repair work
- Building carpenter, carpenter
- Casters, welders, sheet metal workers
- Construction workers
- Concrete workers
- Installers in metal, rubber and plastic production
- Plumbing fitters
This article republished with permission from Ejendals. View our other blog posts related to Personal Protective Equipment.