If you do not work in the industrial sector around vibrating hand-held machinery it is likely that you have never heard of Vibration White Finger, or Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome; (HAVS) as it is commonly known. However, this condition, which affects thousands of people (possibly up to 1 in 10 of all individuals who work with vibrating tools), can result in permanent pain, numbness and mobility problems in the victim’s hands and fingers.
What is HAVS?
Working with vibrating, hand-held machinery can damage the complex collection of tissue, blood vessels, muscles and nerves within the hands, wrists, and fingers. The long-term use of tools such as power motors, concrete breakers, hammer drills, and chainsaws can all lead to symptoms of HAVS and result in permanent and irreversible damage.
Symptoms of HAVS
The symptoms of HAVS vary from person to person, however, some common warning signs that the condition is developing include:
- Numbness or pins and needles in one or more of the finger tips. This often happens at night
- Permanent numbness in the whole finger which leads to difficulties performing tasks that require fine-motor skills such as fastening buttons
- During cold or wet weather, your fingers may go white (hence the term “vibration white finger”) and then become red and painful as they recover
- Loss of strength in your hands
It is important not to ignore any of these signs. If the symptoms are allowed to progress the damage to the hand, wrist and fingers may become irreversible causing permanent, ongoing pain and disability.
If you’ve worked with pneumatic drills, grinders, chainsaws, sanders, lawnmowers, or other vibrating machinery and are now suffering these symptoms, it is possible you have VWF, and you should seek a medical diagnosis as soon as possible so that a compensation process can be instigated.
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 places a responsibility on employers to assess risks and apply measures to reduce or eliminate the risk of hand-arm vibration affecting their employees.
Under the regulations, employers are required by law to take steps to minimise employee exposure to vibration when the vibration reaches the action value of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) exposure per day.
Employers are required to make sure that the recommended exposure levels to vibration are not exceeded and that employees have regular health checks and training schedules in place to ensure any early signs of HAVS are detected and treated before the symptoms become severe.
Historical HAVS claims
By 1976, most employers were deemed to have knowledge of the harm vibrating tools could cause to employees. However, each case turns on its own circumstances. For example, in a case against the British Coal Corporation, it was decided that by 1st January 1973, British Coal should reasonably have known that working with vibrating tools presented a foreseeable risk of HAVS.
An experienced personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you on whether you have grounds to make an historical claim and help you trace your former employer and/or their insurer if your former workplace has ceased to operate.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Workers who are required to use hand held vibrating tools for an extended length of time also run the risk of developing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). CTS is caused by a major nerve (known as the median nerve) becoming entrapped in the carpal tunnel section of the wrist.
The symptoms of CTS are similar to that of HAVS, however, many people with CTS experience a dull ache or pain in the hand, wrist or upper arm as well as numbness and tingling (pins and needles).
Vibration combined with repetitive wrist movements are thought to contribute to the development of CTS. CTS may require surgery to release pressure on the trapped nerve.
HAVS and CTS are serious, debilitating conditions that can result in a loss of employment and a reduced capacity to enjoy life to the full. If you are suffering from either of these conditions, you may be entitled to receive compensation from your employer.
Our solicitors can advise you on your work-injury compensation claim and offer no win, no fee arrangements to ensure your family finances are not put at risk when pursuing a claim.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have suffered an injury because of an accident that was not your fault and would like a free claim assessment, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.