Does your job include the use of vibrating, handheld power tools like a jackhammer, chainsaw or an industrial impact grinder or wrench? Then you might start noticing signs of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). If you ignore the signs too long before seeking medical treatment, it could cause long-term harm.
Thousands of workers in various industries in Iowa work with vibrating tools that threaten their health and expose them to this work-related disorder. The repetitive motion of the intense vibration damages nerves, blood vessels and muscles in your wrists and arms while you operate such tools.
Symptoms of HAVS
At this time, the exact cause of HAVS is unknown, but according to various studies, the repetitive vibration and the frequencies of the hits damage the delicate network of blood vessels in the fingers and hands. Reportedly, heeding the following initial symptoms can prevent irreparable damage:
- Initial symptoms — You could notice a numbness and loss of feeling in your fingertips along with tingling and a sensation of pins and needles. This can be intermittent, and although it is not a sure sign of HAVS, it may be wise to heed the warning.
- Advanced symptoms — Left unattended the numbness in your fingers may become permanent, and you will likely struggle with simple tasks like buttoning your shirt and handling other small objects. You may also find your fingers turning white and then becoming red and painful if your hands are wet or cold. This ailment, Raynaud’s phenomenon, also occurs in other conditions.
Trigger time and the level of vibration along with shift lengths all play roles in the risk of suffering HAVS from repetitive vibration. The following precautions and safety measures may limit the exposure risks:
- Tool selection — Test the tool before you select it by running it for a bit to assess the vibration level.
- Tool suitability — Note that a stronger tool with a higher vibration level may allow you to complete the task in a shorter time, rather than a less-powerful tool that may expose you to vibration for a more extended period.
- Tool condition — Use only well maintained and adequately serviced tools.
- Length of exposure — Depending on the level of vibration, damage can occur within minutes. Allow short bursts of exposure with frequent breaks during which time doing other jobs that require a different use of the hands is advisable.
- Force of grip — Holding the tool in a loose grip when possible may limit the damage, although that is not possible when handling equipment such as jackhammers and chainsaws.
- Storage — Leaving tools outside can force you to hold very cold or even freezing handles. Proper storage and keeping your hands warm while working may help.
Prevention is better than cure
This is very true for HAVS, because much of the damage over time may not be reversible. By seeking timely medical care, you could avoid having to live with the consequences of this condition for life. You need not be concerned about your ability to pay the doctor’s bills because you will likely be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced attorney can explain your rights and help with the navigation of the claims process.