Workers who use vibrating hand tools repeatedly and frequently are at risk for developing vibration injuries such as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). While not as dramatic as a sudden workplace accident, the results of a repetitive use or wear and tear injury can be just as debilitating. Over time, the use of jackhammers, drills, chainsaws, riveters, and other vibrating tools can cause tingling sensations or worse, irreversible damage to nerves and blood vessels.
Workers at Risk
Any worker who uses vibrating hand tools is at risk. This includes workers in the construction, manufacturing, farming, mining, and forestry industries. Working in cold conditions is also a contributing factor. The more a worker’s job requires the use of such tools, the higher the risk as the amount of exposure to vibration is a key factor in developing HAVS. The other factor is the rate of vibration emitted from the hand-held tool. At present, vibration rate is not regulated in the United States, however the European Union prescribes limits for vibration exposure, as well as requiring tool manufacturers, to disclose the rate of vibration on their products. For this reason, many tools have a vibration rating and employers should make every effort to supply workers with low-vibration tools.
Symptoms of HAVS are easily confused with those of carpal tunnel syndrome. Sometimes a worker may not experience any problems for months or even years after regular use of vibrating tools. Early symptoms may include numbness in the fingers, tingling sensations, or pain in the fingers, hands, and arms. As HAVS progresses, an affected worker may experience a weakened grip and difficulty holding or picking up heavier objects. The most severe symptoms involve a condition, called blanching, where the fingers turn white. At this stage, permanent nerve and blood vessel damage has occurred and is irreversible.
Prevention and Treatment of HAVS
If early symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome appear, it is best to stop the use of vibrating hand tools to prevent further damage. Some medications are available to treat the most advanced cases of HAVS. The following steps can be taken to reduce the risk of HAVS:
Use low vibration tools and maintain them well. Proper maintenance reduces vibration levels in tools.
Use proper gear in cold weather, especially covering for the hands.
Use a loose grip to hold tools and take regular breaks.
Do not smoke as this constricts blood vessels and reduces circulation in the extremities.
A worker may use vibrating tools for many years before developing a vibration injury. Workers’ Compensation benefits can help those who are left unable to earn a living, performing the jobs they were trained for.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate on Behalf of Workers with Vibration Injuries
If you have developed symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome or any vibration injury, see a medical professional immediately for treatment and contact an experienced Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyer from LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We have the knowledge and experience to ensure your claim will be successful and will fight on your behalf to make sure you can concentrate on what is most important. Call us today at 844-556-4LAW (4529) to schedule a free consultation about your case or contact us online. We help injured workers in the greater Baltimore area and throughout the state of Maryland.