HAVS Management Failure
Before looking at how to control Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), let’s look at a recent court case. A ground engineering company, Keller Limited, has been fined after a worker was diagnosed with severe hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Cheltenham Magistrates heard how the employee working at the company’s earth retaining division, known as Phi Group, was eventually diagnosed as suffering from HAVS after repeatedly flagging his symptoms to the company for a period of over five years. HSE investigators found the company did not have the right system in place to manage the worker health and did not have a suitable health surveillance programme in place to monitor for the early onset of HAVS and to prevent the irreversible condition from developing.
Keller Limited of Oxford Road, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry, pled guilty to breaching Regulation 7(1) of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and were fined £6,000 and ordered to pay costs of £2,263.45. Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Mehtaab Hamid said:
This was a case of the company completely failing to grasp the importance of HAVS health surveillance.
If they had understood why health surveillance was necessary, it would have ensured that it had the right systems in place to monitor worker’s health and the employee’s condition would not have been allowed to develop to a severe and life-altering stage
The symptoms of HAVS
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) can include tingling, numbness and pain in the hands. The symptoms affect sleep when it occurs at night and sufferers have difficulties in gripping and holding things, particularly small items such as screws, doing up buttons, writing and driving.
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers (which can cause sleep disturbance).
- Not being able to feel things with your fingers.
- Loss of strength in your hands (you may be less able to pick up or hold heavy objects).
- In the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers going white then red and being painful on recovery (vibration white finger).
If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:
- The numbness in your hands could become permanent and you won’t be able to feel things at all;
- You will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails;
- The vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of your fingers
HAVS Management – who is at risk?
Workers are at risk of developing HAVS if they regularly use hand-held or hand-guided and machines such as:
- Concrete breakers/road breakers;
- Cut-off saws (for stone etc);
- Hammer drills;
- Hand-held grinders;
- Impact wrenches;
- Needle scalers;
- Pedestal grinders;
- Power hammers and chisels;
- Powered lawn mowers;
- Powered sanders;
- Strimmers/brush cutters.
Workers are also at risk if they hold workpieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders.
Workers are particularly at risk if they regularly operate:
- Hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
- Some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day.
How to Protect yourself from HAVS
Please refer to a further Construction Safety Blog article –