Every day we hear of stories of people who suffered hand injuries at work. Typically they are stories of someone cutting their fingers off, hands getting smashed, etc. Recently, I came across an under-reported hand injury that we do not often hear about. It is called hand-arm vibration syndrome.
What is hand-arm vibration syndrome?
Hand-arm vibration syndrome is a disorder resulting from prolonged exposure to vibration, primarily impacting the hands and forearms while operating vibrating power tools. Hand-arm vibration syndrome is characterized by numbness, tingling, and loss of nerve sensitivity (typically presents itself by skin appears pale). The disorder begins with a tingling sensation combined with numbness in the fingers. Shortly thereafter, a person’s fingers begin to appear white and swollen when cold and then red and painful when warmed up again. These symptoms are the result of hand-arm vibration syndrome causing adverse circulatory and neural effects in the fingers.
As if it is not bad enough, cold and/or wet weather have the potential to aggravate the problem. It is a similar factor to those people who suffer with arthritis or fibromyalgia. Reduction of nerve sensitivity can make it difficult to pick up small objects such as pins or nails due diminishing feeling perception, and loss of grip and strength in one’s hands. Another symptom of hand-arm vibration syndrome is it may keep you awake at night due to the painful tingling and numbness in your arms.
Is it Possible to Prevent the Onset of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
No, but you can change your work habits with a few of these suggestions:
- Working schedules with a 10-minute break after each hour may reduce the severity and onset of hand-arm vibration syndrome.
- Dress in clothing that will keep your body temperature stable and normal, since a low body temperature reduces blood flow to your extremities and may trigger a flare of hand-arm vibration syndrome. Also, be sure to keep your hands warm and dry for the same reasons.
- Allow the tool do the work for you — grasping it lightly while retaining control reduces the amount of vibration transmitted to you.
- Substitute a manual tool or other process where practical.
- Invest in a pair of ANSI approved anti vibration gloves to absorb the vibration