If hands and/or arms are regularly exposed to high levels of vibration they may suffer from several kinds of injury, including impaired blood circulation and damage to the nerves and muscles

Collectively these injuries are known as “hand-arm vibration syndrome” (HAVS), though other names are sometimes used, including “dead finger”, “dead hand” or “vibration white finger”.

The first signs of vibration injury are a tingling sensation or ‘pins and needles’ in the fingers. This is most noticeable at the end of the working day and may be accompanied by numbness. If this is experienced after 5 to 10 minutes of continuously operating a machine or power tool, you must stop what you are doing and seek further guidance before continuing.

HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. Wherever possible, take the following steps to reduce the likelihood of hand-arm vibration happening:

  • make sure that tools are correctly maintained and free of loose parts;
  • select the right tool for the task and use tools that are designed to reduce vibration – for example those with anti-vibration mountings or with vibration-isolating handles;
  • reduce the grip, pushing and pulling forces that are applied while using tools;
  • avoid long periods of uninterrupted vibration exposure;
  • use padded gloves that are intended to provide a level of vibration-isolation;
  • make sure that your hands are kept warm to maintain a good flow of blood in the fingers – particularly in cold weather.

Remember, the most efficient and effective way of controlling exposure to hand-arm vibration is to look for new or alternative work methods, which eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration.

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