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What is Hand Arm Vibration Testing? (HAVS) Why is it important?

Could you be causing irreparable damage to yourself or your team with hand-arm vibration exposure?

Could you be putting your business at risk due to inaction?

In this article, we are discussing the dangers of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) to you and your team. In addition, we will supply you with everything you need to know to remain HSE compliant, keep your business growing and most importantly, staying open and free from the risk of litigation.

What is HAVS, why should it matter to you?

Hand- Arm Vibration (HAVs) is caused by the uncontrolled exposure to vibration generated by power tools which are transmitted into the hands and arms.  Some great examples are pneumatic drills, chainsaws, lawnmowers, hammer drills, wacker plates and trench rammers… the list goes on and on.

Regular exposure to these vibrations can lead to the development of hand-arm vibration syndrome. This is commonly known as HAVS the medical description is Raynaud’s Disease.  The uncontrolled exposure to vibration causes the blood vessels in the hands to contract and reduce the blood flow to the fingers.

Symptoms of HAVS

The initial symptoms of HAVS are a tingling sensation in the fingers, followed by numbness and stiffness in the fingers, causing fingers in time to turn white.  This causes numbness in the fingers along with a loss of sensitivity.  Over time the person will find it harder and harder to perform normal day-to-day tasks such as tying shoelaces, using the television remote control, and fastening shirt buttons.  The list of tasks that may be lost is wide and can be very limiting and distressing.

What do employers need to do?

The effects of uncontrolled exposure to vibration cannot be cured or improved by medical intervention.  They can however be managed. 

This requires employers to put in place a management system to control the exposure to vibration for their employees.

They must also in conjunction with an occupational health professional, manage any employee who is displaying the symptoms of HAVs. This will mean either limiting or removing the employee’s exposure to vibration.  In many cases, this can mean moving them to another role, if that is not possible the employee may have to leave both the company and the industry, they currently occupy in.

If employers do not take suitable action or ignore the issue it may mean that they will be subject to an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive. This, in turn, could lead to a prosecution which will probably result in a large fine. The current trend seems to be that judges are awarding fines in the region of £500,000 on average. In addition to this, there will be court costs and the Health and Executive’s fee for intervention, currently charged at £160 per hour.  The costs could be very large for you as a business. Following prosecution, there will be a civil claim which will be costly to your insurer. This could lead to increase premiums in subsequent years.

Summary of hand and vibration in the construction sector

In summary, all employers whose staff are exposed to vibration, need to put in place a process where employees are not exposed to vibration outside the limits laid down in legislation. They must also monitor their employees for the effects of hand and arm vibration and take action to prevent overexposure. If necessary, they are also required to take positive action to prevent the employee’s condition from deteriorating further. 

Employees must report any symptoms of vibration-related illness to their employer, to ensure that they received a diagnosis and suitable management and care. 

Where you or your employer can get testing?

At WHC hire, we offer vibration testing solutions for a range of clients from local authorities to the smallest of operations. As five times Gold Medal Winners in Health and Safety recognised by RoSPA, safety is at the forefront of everything we do. We offer an advanced vibration testing facility and have developed an IOSH accredited Vibration at Work Scheme. If you are interested in discussing your V&N requirements, or to organise equipment testing, then please call our Tewkesbury Depot 01684377977