Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

 

Workers who use vibrating tools on a daily basis are at an increased risk of suffering from HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome). Tools such as jackhammers, chisels, chainsaws, sanders, grinders, riveters, breakers, drills, and compactors are often associated with these sorts of injuries. Over long periods of time, repeated exposure to these vibrations can cause physical damage to the hands and arms.

What are the symptoms of HAVS?

  • bluish discoloration of the skin (cyanosis)
  • whitening of fingertips after cold or damp exposure (known as Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • numbness, with or without tingling
  • hand sensitivity and sense of touch reduced
  • decreased grip strength

How can I prevent HAVS from occurring?

  • wear proper-fitting protective equipment (anti-vibration gloves)
  • take advantage of job rotation and exercises that will maintain blood circulation
  • keep your hands warm and dry
  • avoid unnecessary vibration exposure with proper tool handling
  • be aware of safe vibration levels, report any poorly working tools
  • ensure tools are properly maintained (handles insulated, etc.)
  • report any tingling, numbness or finger-whitening symptoms immediately

Reducing Vibration Hazards Project

Saskatchewan Occupational Health and Safety is working with the Motor Safety Association on a project to identify vibration hazards in the workplace, then test and identify cost-effective solutions to reduce these vibration hazards.

Their interim report Vibration in the Workplace (PDF) identifies solutions to reduce the risk of developing:

  • HAVS when using a pneumatic drill
  • Whole body vibration syndrome when using a forklift