What Causes Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome and How to Prevent It

The Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome or HAVS for short is a disease caused by occupational exposure to vibrating tools. Its effects include muscle weakness, discomfort, pain, permanent numbness, and eventually lead to white finger (Raynaud’s disease). The disease is almost exclusively limited to workers that have been using vibrating tools for many years.

In this blog, we take a look at what causes the Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome, its symptoms, and how to prevent it.

What Causes Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?

Workers that regularly use power tools across various industries such as mining, construction, maintenance, and forestry are at risk of HAVS including those that work in colder climates.

The longer the exposure to vibrating tools, the higher the risk of contracting HAVS. The following tools are known to contribute to the disease:

  • Riveters
  • Grinders
  • Jackhammers
  • Chainsaws
  • Drills

HAVS can take anywhere from six months to six years to develop and the condition becomes irreversible after the fingers get blanched.

Symptoms of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

Although it’s not entirely clear how vibrations cause HAVS, it’s hypothesized that the repetitive motions damage the blood vessels and small nerves found inside the fingers.

Initially, the nerves are affected, causing changes in sensations;further damage results in a condition known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, eventually leading to something known as white finger.

Some of the symptoms of HAVS include:

  • Aches and Pains: Minor damage causes pain to appear in the bones and joints of the hand and lower arms.
  • Nerve Damage: Early features of nerve damage include numbness and a tingling sensation. At first such sensations come and go and only appear at the fingertips but they get progressively worse with continued exposure to power tools. Permanent numbness sets in after a while and makes it difficult to carry out routine tasks due to weakened muscle grip.
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: At this stage, symptoms are triggered by touching cold objects or cold weather conditions.

Prevention of Hand-Arm Vibrating Syndrome

The obvious step is to stop using vibrating tools and try to seek another profession. If that isn’t possible, then the following steps can help prevent HAVS from appearing:

  • Ensure proper maintenance of vibrating tools
  • Hold tools in varying positions and don’t grip them too tightly
  • Take a break of around 10 to 15 minutes after each hour of use
  • Use only the tool that is required for the job
  • Don’t smoke as the chemicals found in tobacco restrict blood flow
  • Stay warm during the chilly weather and protect your hands from getting cold

Around 2 million workers in the U.S are exposed to HAVS with half estimated to contract the disease in the future, according to Safety and Health Magazine.

Hovair manufactures air-powered tools including heavy load carriers and lift decks that adhere to the highest safety regulations. These come with minimal vibrations and greatly reduce the chances of workers contracting HAVS. Contact us today for more information.


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