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Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is continuing to plague employees across a wide range of industries, who regularly use vibrating equipment for long periods, despite there being plenty of precautions to reduce the risks according to workplace equipment supplier Slingsby.
HAVS, which is also known as Vibration White Finger or dead finger, is usually a permanent condition that is caused by the extended use of hand-held or hand-guided equipment. Symptoms can include poor circulation which can result in the fingers turning white, a tingling sensation and numbness.
The Medical Research Council estimates that as many as 300,000 employees in the UK suffer from HAVS and more than one million people are exposed to vibrations above safe levels set by the Health & Safety Executive's Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. This legislation states that employers must protect employees from vibration exposure and take action to lower the risks of HAVS exposure through an appropriate and continual monitoring system.
Lee Wright, Marketing Director at Slingsby, which supplies more than 35,000 workplace products across all industries, says: "HAVS is an extremely common industrial injury that can cause substantial disruption to a person's life if it is ignored. Although it commonly affects the construction sector, people working in all industries who use vibrating equipment can be at risk and often people aren't even aware of the dangers until it's too late.
"The vibrations can pass through the fingers, hands and arms causing damage to small nerves and blood vessels. Anyone who ignores the symptoms and carries on using the offending equipment is risking their long-term health.
"Employers have a responsibility to monitor and manage their employees' exposure to vibrations. Plus there can be significant penalties for businesses that breach the HSE's guidelines with recent estimates from insurer AXA suggesting that average claims for HAVS are approximately £70,000 once legal fees are taken into account.
"Sometimes it may be possible to find alternative ways of doing things, that don't require the use of vibrating equipment, but if this isn't possible there are lots of precautions that employers can take to reduce the risks of HAVS. All equipment and machinery should be regularly checked in order to reduce vibrations caused by general wear. Plus employees should take regular breaks and they can even encourage blood circulation and reduce vibration by wearing certain protective equipment and warm clothing.
"An effective monitoring system should also be introduced and nowadays there are lots of digital and real-time systems that can be used so that both employers and employees have access to accurate data about their current exposure levels."
One of the products available from Slingsby, which helps cut vibration for those using road sweeping machinery, fork lift trucks etc, is the Thermagrip glove. Comprising a liquid repellent nitrile coating on a foam insulated liner, it keeps out rain, snow and grease. Flexible even at low temperatures, it is safer and longer lasting than a leather glove and is approved to EN388 Cat II and EN511.
T: 0800 2944440
16th January 2014