Hand-Arm Vibration

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What are Hand-Arm and Whole-Body Vibration?

Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) is a condition caused by regular exposure to vibrating and percussive tools, or working with material in contact with grinding or cutting operations.Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) refers to damage to muscles, joints,circulation and nerves in the hand and arm caused by HAV.Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) is experienced when sitting, standing or lying on a vibrating surface. For example, a forklift truck operator or tractor driver may be exposed to vibration through the seat resulting in WBV.Noise and vibration are usually connected – if there is an issue with vibration in the workplace it’s likely that noise also poses a risk.

Vibration White Finger

The term Vibration White Finger (VWF) is used to describe damage to circulation,usually to the fingers, arising from long-term, regular contact with vibrating tools.Symptoms can include a tingling sensation and numbness, or whiteness of parts of the fingers.With continued exposure to vibration, these symptoms may become more severe, particularly in cold weather.During an attack, the fingers lose their normal sense of touch. After the attack,which may last for up to half an hour, the affected finger(s) may become painful,red and throbbing when the circulation returns.Other conditions linked to exposure to vibration can cause permanent loss of feeling, numbness and tingling in the hand.

Risks to health from vibration

Prolonged exposure can lead to considerable pain and time off work, and may

result in permanent disability. The most well-known health effect is VWF, but

other effects include damage to sensory nerves, muscles and joints in the hands

and arms.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that each year, approximately 3,000 new claims for Industrial Injury Disability Benefit are made in relation to [acronymVWF]vibration white finger[end acronym] and vibration-related carpal tunnel syndrome.In addition, the HSE maintains that [acronym HAV]Hand-Arm Vibration[end acronym] is a major cause of occupational ill health and it is estimated around five million workers are exposed to HAV in the workplace. Two million of these
workers are exposed to levels of vibration where there are clear risks of developing disease.Drivers who are exposed to intense long-term vibration are at risk of developing WBV that can cause chronic back pain.

The risk of permanent damage from vibration depends on a number of factors including:

how high the level of vibration is
how long the equipment is used for – short exposures and occasional spells can be equally as damaging depending on other factors
how tightly the equipment is gripped

how awkward the equipment is to use
how cold and wet it is when use the equipment is used.

Exposure to WBV is not the only cause of back pain in drivers and other workers.