Why vibration is such a serious risk to health

Health and safety when working in demolition

Posted on 21st Mar, 2019 | By Lorretta Tatham

While most people have at least a basic understanding of the dangers of working at height or with electricity, the risks of vibration are commonly underestimated – even by some employers. Unlike working at height or electricity, which pose very sudden and immediate dangers, the risks of vibration impose themselves gradually, which is why they’re far more easy to underestimate. In this article, we cover why vibration to your hands or arms is a cause for worry, and the possible consequences.

What is HAVS?

HAVS, or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, is a medical condition caused by excessive exposure to vibration forces in the workplace. Hand tools and power tools that are guided manually have a considerable amount of vibration. Over time, this damages the joints, the nerves and individual blood vessels.

For instance, joints are only designed to handle a certain amount of usage before the cartilage and other parts inside the joint wear down. The result is serious and debilitating long-term pain, which means that those who suffer from it often find themselves unable to do fine work. What’s more, colder temperatures can trigger painful finger-blanching attacks.

Crucially, the condition is permanent, so sufferers have to live the with the consequences all their lives. Those who have HAVS often require medication to reduce the pain. However, nerve damage is possibly the most painful because it’s directly linked to pain receptors in the brain, which means it can sometimes cut through pain medication. It’s just one more factor that makes prevention so crucial.

How is HAVS felt in the body?

It can happen on the job, but it can be felt anywhere and at any time. The pain occurrences are seemingly at random to the sufferer. Depending on the severity, it can cause discomfort all the way through to an inability to use the hands for the duration that the pain is being experienced. It becomes very difficult to control the hands or arms when the nerves are reacting, and the blood vessels are irritated.

Are vibration health risks at work taught on an abrasive wheels course?

Our Abrasive Wheels course at Browns Safety covers potential health hazards at work. These include the risks from vibration, noise and dust too. This is relevant to the HSG17 regulation that covers abrasive wheels.

The course discusses best practices to prevent health issues from vibrations and the other risks mentioned above. Changes to methods of cutting, positioning and posture, and changing wheels all help reduce the vibration risks to workers. The half-day course provides all the relevant information to help keep employees safe from health risks. Click here to book your place, or give us a call on 01282 615517.

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