Health, Safety & Environment Consultants

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome


Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) often referred to as Vibration White Finger or Dead Finger is a huge problem for workers who suffer. Between 2007 and 2016, the HSE reports there were 7375 claims for HAVS, with 455 of those occurring in 2016. So, what is HAVS, how does is affect workers, and how do we avoid it?

HAVS disease caused by the use of vibrating machinery. This includes, but is not limited to, construction workers, arborists, horticulturists, mechanics and ship builders.  HAVS causes the circulation of the blood to be adversely affected. Sufferers find that cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks. Typical symptoms of HAVS include:

  • Pins and needles
  • Severe pain and numbness
  • Loss of sense of touch
  • Loss of grip strength
  • Painful wrist
  • White appearance on fingers

HAVS can have a real adverse effect on an individual making doing everyday tasks difficult and sometimes impossible. Tasks even as simple as doing up buttons and tying shoelaces can become impossible, meaning sufferers are not just affected in their work life, but also their home life too.

Unfortunately, HAVS is a permanent, debilitating condition. This means there is no cure. The good news is that it is preventable.

So how do we prevent workers from developing HAVS? The risk of developing HAVS depends on the frequency and length of exposure to vibration, and the tightness of the grip on the machinery. The key to avoiding HAVS is to reduce, and where possible, eliminate exposure to vibrating machinery. Where possible it should be attempted to eliminate the use of vibrating machinery. Where that is not possible the use of machinery with lower vibration ratings and insulated handles can help reduce vibration. We also need to manage the duration of exposure. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Guidance INDG175 Hand-arm vibration at work: A brief guide, provides advice on managing exposure to vibrating machinery in the workplace as well as details on exposure action values (EAV) and exposure limit values (ELV). The HSE also provides a free  Vibration Calculator, which can aid in calculating exposure times to vibrating machinery.

Lastly, it is also important to provide health surveillance to those exposed to vibrating machinery above the EAV. The aim of surveillance is to identify persons with certain conditions (such as Raynaud’s Disease) who are more at risk of developing HAVS, identify any vibration related disease early, and help prevent disease progression. Health surveillance also helps to check the effectiveness of vibration control measures currently in place.

Remember, by effective management of vibrating machinery in the workplace we can reduce the risks of workers developing HAVS. This benefits businesses by helping people stay in work, thus reducing their staff turnover, reducing the risk of potential fine and claims, and reducing recruitment and training costs.

If you need help with assessing your HAVS requirements, or with any part of your health and safety management system, contact us to find out how we can help you: or 01843 6399711

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