Hand arm vibration, HAVS, White finger
In recent years the awareness of hand- arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) has increased, but there are nearly two million people in Britain still at risk of developing the condition at work. Essentially, this ill health problem could be occurring due to the continuous and repetitive use of hand held vibrating power tools which damages and provokes a disorder in the functions of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.
The consequences can be inability to do fine work and cold temperatures can trigger painful finger blanching attacks.
HAVS is a preventable disease, but once afflicted the damage is permanent and in many cases a cause of disability.
A significant reduction of those cases were observed after the introduction of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations in 2005. Since then the construction industry has been made aware of the risks involved of using power vibrating tools. Some improvement and new designs of machines have also been made.
There are still some sectors, like agriculture and marine where the risk of vibration related disorders seems to be increasing.
Vibration is a lost energy, so maybe a lower vibration process could be more efficient?
This would also reduce other risk elements like noise produced from mechanical equipment as well as reducing the spark chain.
A lot of suppliers have continually tried to reduce the vibration impact, avoiding risks for the workers and making their machines more desirable.
Business owners whom are using these kind of power tools needs to be aware that according to legal Regulations the exposure of vibration has to be “as low as reasonably practicable”, which means that it is not enough to just be below the limits stipulated in the law, but to reduce the risks for employees as much as possible.
Studies have demonstrated that if the exposure is regularly reaching the Exposure Limit Value, many of your workers will develop one of the vibration health conditions such as Hand arm vibration, HAVS, White finger.
Tool timers and vibration meters are not advisable, because they are not actually measuring the exposure of the worker, but only how long the machine is being used. They are similar to a watch but more expensive than most.
There is no legal requirement for continual monitoring of employees’ exposure to vibration.
What is contemplated for employer's to look for is for how often per week the worker’s exposure is likely to be and based on that information a risk assessment must be produced.
Your best tools for minimizing the risks of work related vibration diseases would be the continual improvement and upgrading of the machines, the right training, the correct risk assessment and in many cases the change of work processes to avoid the use of hand tools.
Sometimes the correct work procedure could not only save you money and time but also reduce risks.
A good example is the recent trial of the use of a slower spinning blade in a diamond cutting job. It was found that using the slower spinning blade was a better option for a particular grade of hard concrete, while at the same time there wasn’t a big difference in the speed of actual cutting. The process however was much smoother.
Hand arm vibration, HAVS, White finger needs to be prevented before it takes effect