Vibration caused by machinery or vehicles can cause painful injury to the arms and hands, or to the whole body. Injuries caused by vibration can be extremely debilitating, permanent and preventable.
Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)
Hand-arm vibration syndrome or HAVS, is the medical term for symptoms caused by vibration damage that occurs in the hands, fingers or arms. Nearly two million people are at risk of developing HAVS. Once the damage is done, it is permanent and so early detection of this injury is very important.
HAVS can cause painful finger blanching (numbness, cold and pain in the fingers) and can mean working with the hands becomes impossible. HAVS can leave the affected person unable to work at all.
HAVS can cause vascular, neurological or musculoskeletal injuries.
Vascular HAVS: These injuries affect the capillaries (small blood vessels) in the hands and fingers, causing them to contract. This creates whiteness, coldness and numbness in the area. This is caused by vibration but usually triggered by the cold.
Neurological HAVS: Vibration can damage the nerves in the hands, which reduces function. This can mean the afflicted person has trouble doing simple tasks such as pouring a glass of water, buttoning up their clothes, or turning a key in a lock.
Musculoskeletal HAVS: The tendons, muscles and bones in the hands and arm can become damaged by vibration. Causing pain, reducing mobility and affecting grip.
HAVS may be caused by using power tools such as:
- Nail guns
- Needle scalers
- Reciprocating saws
- Demolition or rotary hammers
- Plate compactors
- Pneumatic hammers
- Trench rammers
- Water jetting guns
- Bush cutters
- Hedge trimmers
- Chipping hammers
Sensitivity to HAVS depends on the individual, some people can work for many decades before developing HAVS, others may develop severe symptoms after only a few years of exposure. Someone who is affected by HAVS may become ‘clumsy’ due to decreased mobility and poor grip strength and is at risk of causing further injury to themselves or others because of their disorder. Another reason why detecting HAVS early is so vital.
Whole Body Vibration (WBV)
Whole body vibration or WBV is transmitted through the feet or seat of mobile machines or work vehicles. Often, ride on machines or work vehicles are driven over rough, bumpy surfaces, meaning that jolts, vibration and shocks can cause injury and pain to the drivers. The most common injury is lower back pain.
Facts and statistics about WBV injuries are unclear. Riding on vibrating machinery for prolonged periods of time puts the musculoskeletal system under stress, which may cause the worker to injure their back when doing another activity such as manual handling. It can be difficult to identify the cause of lower back pain because the pain rarely begins during riding the vehicle.
Employers should be held to account for injuries caused by vibration.
In some instances, the effects of vibration can be hard to predict and measure. It can be difficult to prove that an injury was indeed caused by vibration. But thankfully in the UK, there are health and safety regulations which require employers to protect their employees from vibration. Employees should not be exposed to vibrations for prolonged periods of time, the proper protective equipment should be worn, vehicles and machines should be operated at a slow enough speed and machinery should be well maintained and updated. Sticking to these regulations should ensure that the worker is not at risk of developing an injury caused by vibration. Carelessness with regards to vibration protection could mean that the employer is liable for their employee’s injury.
We have a wealth of experience in workplace accident and injury claims, if you would like to discuss your injury with a qualified solicitor, we will be very happy to speak with you face to face on a no win, no fee basis. To have a conversation with a solicitor immediately, in your own home please fill in our claims form or call 0800 163 622 between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm.