Hand-arm vibration damage has become the number one work-related injury in Sweden. In 2016 it already counted for around 36% of all approved work injuries according to AFA insurance, and it has been steadily increasing.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome or (HAVS) is caused by repeated use of vibrating hand-held power tools such as jackhammers, plate compactors, hammer drills, etc. This equipment emits vibrations of different frequency and magnitude that is transmitted and absorbed by the hands operating them. The higher the vibrations, the longer the periods the equipment is being used and how often the operator is being exposed all contribute to the risk of HAVS and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The highest risk of injury is within heavy industry, construction and metal works.
Workers who endure long exposure of vibrations might experience an unpleasant tingling sensation, numbness and even pain in their hands. If the exposure is prolonged, blood vessels and nerves will eventually be damaged. The fingers will then slowly turn white and the grip motor skills may also be lost, this is called Raynaud's phenomena, more commonly known as White Fingers. Involuntary artery spasm may also be present. At this stage, the effects are irreversible and the operator will not be able to fully recover. The treatment for this is very unpleasant and can involve nerve surgery and chemical injections.
So what can we do to prevent this if there is no vibration measuring equipment at hand?
Be aware of how long the equipment is being used. Cut down on the exposure time and take regular breaks.
New or well-maintained power tools are often vibrating less. There is also power tools specifically designed for a minimum of vibrations, but they are costly and not commonly available.
Hands that are exposed to wet and cold are at an even higher risk of being afflicted by white fingers. This is why the Hysafety Tremor (HGS-7590) anti-vibration gloves give double protection. It keeps the hands more warm and dry and is fitted with a special treated foam pad that absorbs vibrations and lessens the impact directly on the hands.
So take a moment to reflect on this and watch out for HAVS, after all, we only have one pair of hands and they should be precious to us.