Vibration White Finger, also known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is caused by exposure to vibration at work.
Exposure to vibration at work can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hand, wrist and arm. Most people develop HAVS through working regularly with handheld power tools or machinery for more than a few hours a day.
HAVS is preventable but once the damage has been done it is permanent.
Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
These regulations were introduced to protect employees from vibration at work, by stipulating the length of certain types of exposure to vibration and providing protective equipment.
You may be at risk of developing HAVS if you regularly use hand operated tools, such as pneumatic drills, chainsaws, grinders and strimmers. The longer a person uses vibrating power tools, the more injuries are caused to the nerves and blood vessels – which can then accumulate and cause vibration white finger.
The Health and Safety Executive says that workers are more at risk if they work with hammer action tools for more than 15 minutes a day, or with some rotary or other action tools for more than around one hour each day, as this is likely to be above the exposure set out in the regulations.
It was recognised that vibrating power tools caused vibration white finger in 1976, and since then employers have been expected to protect their employees from this. It is your employer’s duty to ensure that you are not exposed to vibrating tools for too long. They should have introduced a number of health and safety measures, including:
- Giving you regular breaks
- Providing anti-vibration gloves
- Ensuring all tools are up to date and well maintained
- Ensuring that you are properly trained in how to use the tools correctly
Making a claim
If you or a family member has developed HAVS or vibration white finger, you may be able to make an industrial disease claim with UnionLine, especially if your employer has failed to protect you from the risks of developing it.