Hand ‐ Arm Vibration
Hand‐arm vibration syndrome (vibration white finger) causes danger to the hands and arms from prolonged use of high‐vibration tools. If detected in the early stages, improvement is possible. In later stages, it can become permanent.
Maximum exposure limits have been set by applicable regulations or standards.
Employees who regularly use high‐vibration hand‐held tools for prolonged periods encounter the problem of vibration white finger. Symptoms are tingling or pins and needles in the fingers that occur at the end of the day with accompanying numbness. Whiteness appears at the tips of the fingers when exposed to cold. The finger becomes pale with reduced sensation in the cold. When blood returns, painful throbbing is felt. In very severe cases, blood supply is permanently impaired causing a blue‐black appearance of the hand. Examples of high‐risk activities or processes include:
- Manual grinding work
- Riveting tools
- Chainsaws and similar woodworking machines
- Power hammers such as caulking and chipping hammers and concrete breakers
- Percussive drills
Preventive and Protective Measures
The following preventive or protective measures should be taken
- Identify through risk assessment, the tasks / activities that could result in regular use of high‐vibration hand‐held tools for prolonged periods and involve affected employees or outside experts in the evaluation of the risks.
- Take appropriate steps to eliminate or minimize the risks.
- Train supervisors and employees to recognize and report early signs and symptoms of hand‐arm disorders.
- Train in preventive measures such as using gloves, heating pads, tools with heated handles, warm weatherproof clothing, and organizing employee rotation.
- Encourage reporting of old or faulty equipment in order to minimize excessive vibration.
- Build flexibility into job design and encourage employees to take necessary rest breaks.
Involve specialists such as engineers and ergonomists in the various stages of work activity design and development to minimize strain (such as the selection of machinery, tools, equipment, and job rotation).