Signs and Symptoms to watch out for this winter if you suffer from HAVS
HAVS (Hand arm vibration syndrome) or VWF (Vibration white finger) is a disease that affects thousands of people every year in the UK alone. The condition is usually caused by exposure to heavy vibratory tools when being operated by hand. The symptoms include numbness, pain or tingling in the fingers (often described as a pins and needles sensation) as well as whitening of the finger tips. It is not uncommon to find that these symptoms get worse in the winter.
Although this is not great news for people already suffering with the HAVS it is a good opportunity for workers that have been exposed to vibration to identify any early signs of the condition. The most common enhancement of symptoms is the whitening of the finger tips. HAVS is a form of Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition that effects blood circulation to the arms and hands meaning that discolouration is usually due the lack of blood reaching the affected areas. Fingers and hands can also become increasingly numb and the sensation of pins and needles also intensifies in cold conditions. These are known as attacks and usually last for short periods, between 30 -60 minutes.
These are only symptoms and an indication that you may be suffering with Hand Arm Vibration syndrome, to truly establish whether your symptoms are related to HAVS you may need to ask yourself if you have worked with any of the following tools:
- Pneumatic tools
- Angle Grinders
- Any other hand held tool that emits vibration
These tools along with many others contribute to nerve damage through the vibrations they produce when active. This in turn effects the sensation in your hands, if this increases in severity this sensation of pain and loss of control can become a permanent feature. An individual’s ability to do minor tasks such as fastening buttons is severely effected due to the loss of dexterity. Another common feature of HAVS is the way in which the symptoms or rather pain can be spread. In many people the severity of pain can be felt in one finger and lesser in others.
The use of hand-held power tools can be seen in nearly all forms of labour work these can range from general construction to road work. Below are some examples of workplaces in which you can find these types of tools.
- Engineering Works
- Road Workers
- Construction Workers
- Ground Worker
These industries are some of the most common as hand-held tools are most prevalent in these sectors. However this is not a cause for concern if you work in an environment in which vibratory tools are used. Your employer has a duty of care to make sure you are always provided with the right safety equipment such as gloves. They are also meant to monitor the amount of time you spend working these tools. This can be up to 15 minutes at any one time. The care of employers has been noted in recent years with the amount of claimants reducing due to Health and Safety becoming a key focus. This can be seen in the graph below provided by the HSE.
The cold months can be especially hard for people suffering with HAVS so it is important to ensure that you avoid cold conditions where possible and keep blood circulation flowing as well as wearing gloves to reduce the risk of attacks.
If you feel you have or display the symptoms of HAVS the first step is to contact your GP to establish the exact cause and get a diagnosis. It also worth informing your employer or the person in charge of health & safety at your place of work so that measures can be taken. You may also be eligible to make a claim depending on when you last worked with tools and when the symptoms developed. To find out more or for Free legal advice please do not hesitate to contact Roberts Jackson Solicitors on 0808 256 3740.