As winter approaches, employers should look to provide staff protection against the onset of the cold weather when using power tools implicated in HAVS, either outdoors or indoors in inadequately heated areas. HAVS is a debilitating illness caused by prolonged use of hand held and hand guided power tools, and it consists of a number of symptoms affecting the blood circulation, nervous system and muscles and bones in the hand and lower arm.
Employers are duty bound under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (2005) to prevent employees from developing this illness.
Impaired blood circulation in the long term could lead to Vibration White Finger (sometimes known as Raynaud’s syndrome) where the fingertips go white in cold environments and slowly (often painfully) recover to normal in warm areas. If left unchecked there may be no recovery making the illness permanent.
HAVS can be exacerbated by using powered tools in cold and damp weather and has the potential to develop even more rapidly the colder it gets.
Employers must encourage staff working in cold conditions to keep warm and maintain blood circulation by providing the right protection, like warm clothing and gloves. It should be noted that there is no effective PPE for HAVS and so-called anti-vibration gloves are more beneficial for keeping hands warm than as a means of reducing vibration exposure. Employees are also to be encouraged to take more breaks, massage hands and fingers to stimulate blood circulation, and drink warm beverages as examples of further preventative measures.
A competent HAVS risk assessment should take into account the working environment conditions of staff when using powered equipment. To see what other factors that should also be taken into account when carrying out a risk assessment, click the link below to download our FREE guide “A guide to conducting a Hand Arm Vibration Risk Assessment”.
Essel Acoustics has the skills and experience to help. See contact details below.
Satish Lakhiani MSc, MIOA
Essel Acoustics Ltd
Phone: 07710 356663