To HAVS or not to HAVS?

If you use or have used vibrating tools or machinery at work such as pneumatic drills, jackhammers or chainsaws, you may be one of the three million people estimated by the Health and Safety Executive to be at risk of developing symptoms of HAVS.

Those symptoms can be very serious, including numbness in the fingers, muscle weakness and ‘white finger’- often leaving sufferers unable to work and earn an income.

This condition is commonly referred to as “Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome” or “HAVS” for short.

Common types of machinery which may lead to HAVS:

  • Power drills

  • Pneumatic drills

  • Grinders

  • Strimmers/lawnmowers

  • Jackhammers

  • Chain saws

  • Nut guns

  • Powered wrenches

The potential risks of using vibrating equipment have been known since the 1970’s but more recently, in the mid 2000’s more stringent controls came into place. Employers are now expected to be aware of HAVS and to take steps to avoid their employees suffering the effects.

What are the symptoms?

We know how painful and disabling HAVS can be – typical symptoms are as follows:

  • Pins and needles or tingling sensations in your fingers

  • Whiteness of the fingers and sometimes the thumbs

  • Lack of feeling/reduced sense of touch

  • Cold fingers and hands

  • Damage to muscles , bones and joints

Symptoms tend to start in the tips of your fingers or sometimes thumbs, and then move along the digits. You may experience a reduction of grip strength and a loss of dexterity. Everyday things like tying shoe laces and fastening buttons become difficult.  The cold can often make things worse.

HAVS usually develops whilst you are working with vibrating tools, or within 2 years of stopping the use of them. Sadly, once your symptoms are present, they are permanent.

How can we help?

We are committed to helping clients who use Power tools which when used can lead to HAVS – we have dealt with many companies throughout the UK including some well known multi-national organisations, to help them address the matter and meet regulatory requirements.

  • We review and individually identify their tools to comply with the Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

  • We also record and track maintenance and vibration testing, using our bespoke software which flags when the next service and test is due. Our customers can also access these records via the internet.

  • We provide a workstation review and advice service to our clients and can often recommend a change in work practices or tooling that can reduce or even completely remove the risk of HAVS.

  • And finally, we offer training to both operators and management in HAVS awareness.

The above activities ensure a company complies with current HAVS regulations.

Employers have a duty to ensure that it is safe for you to use equipment required to do your job. If it is vibrating equipment, they should give you regular breaks to limit the time spent on the machinery or tools. They should consider changing the work process (introduce a rotating shift pattern for example) or modify the tools (altering the grip can help), and you should have regular medical reviews.

It is highly unlikely that your employer is intentionally avoiding their duty with regard to HAVS but with ever more complex and increasing legislation, companies can sometimes fall a little behind.

If you use or are aware of others using vibrating equipment at work we would suggest discussing the regulatory requirements with your employer and recommending an organisation like Thompson Power Tool Services who can help them through the compliance process.