What is Vibration White Finger?
Vibration white finger (VWF) is the term used for an industrial disease that was coined so in 1976, which refers to the injury sustained through repetitive and over use of vibrating power tools such as jack hammers, strimmers, chainsaws, pneumatic drills, sanders and other such heavy powered tools.
Until fairly recently it was referred to as vibration white finger but as more research has been done on the condition, it is now known that there are more symptoms than simply ‘white fingers’ and as such, these days it is often referred to as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
Causes and Prevention of Vibration White Finger
When using such power tools for any long periods of time or in a repetitive nature, the nerve endings and blood vessels slowly become damaged. When the blood doesn’t flow well through the vessels, the fingers become white and when the nerve endings become damaged, there is a loss of sensitivity in the touch. Every time a power tool is used, this damage gets worse and worse.
If you are using power tools at work then it is your employers’ responsibility to ensure that the correct measures are put in place to help prevent VWF and these should include:
- Ensuring there are adequate breaks in using the tools to reduce over exposure to the vibration
- Ensuring that appropriate anti-vibration gloves are worn
- Providing the correct working tools for the job
- Ensuring adequate training and certification on the safe operation of the tools
- Keeping the ambient temperature of the working environment at a comfortable level – this is so that the blood flows normally through the fingers and forearm. Often these extremities are the first to lose their blood supply if the person gets cold, which can lead to increased damage.
As an individual, and hopefully in addition to your employer’s responsibilities, you can take some measures to prevent hand arm vibration syndrome happening to you:
- If you are a smoker, you may not know it but your blood thickens with every cigarette, which in turn leads to decreased blood flow, which is often why you’ll feel cold in the extremities of your body such as your fingers and toes. Where vibration is added into the mix, this decreased blood flow acts as a catalyst for damage to those all important blood vessels and nerve endings so quitting smoking is a great form of defense against vibration white finger along with the many other obvious smoking related illnesses.
- Hold the tools as loosely as is SAFE TO DO SO – this will lessen the vibration effect through your fingers, hands and arms.
Typical industries or jobs in white white finger vibration syndrome happens:
- Building and construction
- Concrete manufacturing
- Forestry maintenance
- Heavy engineering
- Metal foundries
- Mines and quarries, especially coal
- Public utilities such as electricity, water telecoms
- Road / rail working
- Ship building
- Vehicle manufacture and repair
How do I know if I am suffering from Vibration White Finger?
Symptoms vary from person to person but generally vibration white finger can be symptoms will fall into one of the following categories:
Cold sensation and discolouration
This is often from exposing your hands to the cold or holding onto something that is cold to the touch. Many claimants have complained of their fingers and hands feeling icy, having turned white (or sometimes red or blue) as skin does when it is starved of oxygen – a concept known in the medical world as Raynauds phenomenon.
Tingling and numbness
The nerve endings have taken a bit if a battering and so they may feel tingly or numb from the tips of the fingers, sometimes all the way up the hand.
Pain and weakness in the fingers, hands and forearms
Often victims of vibration white finger suffer from pain in their fingers, hands or forearms, making them weaker in gripping objects. Damage to the muscles and blood vessels causes a dull ache making this type of movement difficult.
I have Vibration White Finger Symptoms, what should I do
Stop using the power tools immediately and seek medical clarification on your symptoms. Stopping using the tools will prevent any further damage and may even see the symptoms subside if enough time is allowed.
General advice would be to steer well clear of any vibrating power tool work as this will almost certainly bring back and probably worsen the matter.
Tell your employer that you are unable to work on tools of this nature and seek legal advice from a specialist personal injury solicitor who can tell you where you stand from a legal position to make a vibration white finger compensation claim.
Treating hand arm vibration syndrome
Often if the symptoms are caught early, vibration white finger can disappear of its own accord but certainly if you are diagnosed and continue to use these tools then you could cause irreversible damage.
- As has been mentioned, stopping smoking can have a fairly big effect as it opens up the blood vessels
- Beware of certain drugs / medicine which may impede blood flow – in particular beta-blockers, anti-migraine tablets and decongestant medicines. Do not stop taking any of these drugs if you suspect it may be affecting your vibration white finger but instead speak to you doctor as soon as possible.
- Do not touch cold objects – use a protective glove or tea towel when you are handling cold objects
- Keep your whole body but especially your hands warm at all times
- Steer clear of caffeine for a little while as this can be a trigger for symptoms – this includes coffee, tea, coke and some medicines.
- Take regular exercise – especially where the hands are concerned – it is important to keep circulation to the area.
Making a Vibration White Finger Compensation Claim
If you believe that your employer is guilty of exposing you to excessive vibration tool use then you should speak to a specialist solicitor about making a VWF claim.
It makes sense to do this sooner rather than later as there are strict deadlines surrounding the time period in which one can claim for compensation. If you have any questions feel free to speak to us now on 0800 028 2060 or take a look at our Claim FAQ’s page.
Vibration white finger claims are just one element of our industrial disease portfolio. If you or anyone you know have suffered from VWF or any other industrial / work related injury then we will happily speak to you to determine if there is a case for compensation or not. Call us or complete one of the short forms on this website and we will call you back at your convenience.
Russell Worth Solicitors – getting you the compensation you deserve.