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Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) Robert Tailby, Loss Control Specialist with Chubb Insurance, answers some commonly asked questions about a problem that some companies are still not dealing with adequately. What is it?

How do you get it?

second squared averaged over an

Any work activity that transmits

8 hour working day. The accepted

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

vibration to the arms and hands could

way to express this is 5 m/s2 A(8).

refers to a range of health effects

create a risk. This includes using

Although the overall maximum dose

that happen when the nerves, blood

hammer drills, sanders, grinders, disc

limit is 5 m/s2 A(8), employers have

vessels, muscles and joints of the

cutters, rotary polishing tools, and

to take action to reduce vibration

hand, wrist and arm are damaged by

concrete breakers, as well as hand-

exposure if their employees dose

prolonged exposure to vibration.

guided equipment such as powered

exceeds 2m/s2 A(8).

lawnmowers, chainsaws, hedge What are the effects?

trimmers, floor sanders and the like.

If the magnitude of vibration from a

The most well known symptom of

Regularly using this type of equipment

particular tool or process is relatively

HAVS is vibration white finger (VWF).

for prolonged periods is a common

low, it will take a long time for a

During an attack of VWF, sufferers

cause of HAVS. Holding materials

worker’s exposure to reach the daily

fingers go numb and turn white

being processed against machines

dose limit; if it is high, the limit

(blanching), and then become red

such as bench-mounted grinders,

could be reached quite quickly. For

and painful as they recover. These

pedestal grinders and polishing mops

example, if a tool vibrates at 3 m/s2, a

symptoms are often brought on by

can also create significant vibration

dose of 2 m/s2 A(8) will be reached in

cold or wet conditions. People with

exposures.

around 4 hours, but if the magnitude

HAVS also experience: • pain in the wrists (Carpal Tunnel

of vibration is 10 m/s2, the same dose

How much vibration causes HAVS?

will be reached in only 30 minutes.

complicated. All that most of us

How do I know if there is a problem?

need to know is that there is a legal

If your tools and equipment are

• loss of grip strength

maximum daily vibration dose limit.

relatively new, the manufacturer

• tingling sensations (pins and

If workers’ vibration exposure is kept

should be able to tell you how much

below that limit then the risk of HAVS

vibration they are likely to generate.

will be low.

By timing how long people use each

Syndrome) • pain or loss of sensation in the hands or fingers

needles) • loss of manual dexterity (can’t do

The science of vibration is quite

fine work, or pick up small objects) • loss of sense of temperature in the

piece of equipment you can work out The unit of measurement for vibration

their likely vibration dose1. If it looks

is meters per second squared (m/

like the exposure might be at or near

s2). Vibration dose is calculated by

the dose limit, you should do a more

With prolonged vibration exposure,

combining the magnitude of the

in-depth study.

these effects become irreversible.

vibration in m/s2 with how long

fingers

60

someone is exposed. The overall legal

If you can’t get exposure data from

vibration exposure dose limit for an

equipment manufacturers, or the

individual worker is five meters per

vibration arises from how you do the

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Risk Manager Magazine  

Spring 2010 edition of Risk Manager Magazine

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