Hand-Arm Vibration

Last Updated: August 28, 2020

Definition - What does Hand-Arm Vibration mean?

Hand-arm vibration is the sensory vibration radiating from the fingers, hands, and up into the arms caused by operation of handheld power tools and equipment. Repetitive use covers a wide spectrum of tools and devices including chainsaws, jackhammers, grinders, polishers, and sanders. For this reason, individuals can develop a number of musculoskeletal, neurological, and/or vascular injuries falling under hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). High-frequency vibrations often incurs significant peripheral damage to blood vessels and nerves in the fingers, hands, and arms.

WorkplaceTesting explains Hand-Arm Vibration

The long-term effects of hand-arm vibration can cause debilitating and chronic pain in fingers, hands, and arms, limiting functionality with regular activities such as gripping and/or holding objects. Manual labor requiring consistent handling and operation of power tools and machinery can often lend to the extent and severity of future injuries that may occur. For instance, industrial work such as construction, mining, and welding utilizes electrical and/or pneumatic tools and equipment generating high-frequency vibrations.

People can experience immediate symptoms of numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, and/or finger coldness/whiteness, also called Raynaud’s disease. However, detecting symptoms in others can be delayed and, in cases of musculoskeletal diagnoses, missed by clinical examinations due to otherwise normal test results.

Although, hand-arm vibration can lead to perpetual damage in capillaries (blood vessels) and nerves, alternative measures exist to limit or prevent HAVS related conditions. This includes using low-frequency tools, taking hourly breaks from work, wearing gloves, applying looser grips around power tool handles, maintain and repair equipment, avoid cold temperatures, and reduce smoking habit (smoking constricts blood vessels).

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