What is HAVS?
Previously known as
Vibration White Finger Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is an industrial disease caused by the exposure of the hands to severe vibration from hand-held tools or pieces of equipment.
This could be (but is not limited to) pneumatic drills, chainsaws, concrete breakers and pokers, disc cutters, chipping hammers, hedge trimmers, powered mowers, needle guns or grinders.
You are at risk of HAVS if you have ever worked with any mechanised, vibrating machinery, and it can take weeks, months, or even years for symptoms to show themselves. It is well worth knowing what you should look out for.
How Do You Get HAVS?
HAVS has potential to develop for people who use power tools for extended periods of time. It is the constant vibrations of these tools that cause neurological and vascular problems, which manifest themselves after the repeated and prolonged pressure put on the nerves and arteries of the hands.
This condition often affects nerves, muscles, blood vessels, and joints in the hand, arm and wrist.
What Are The Symptoms of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome?
Symptoms of HAVS may not become apparent for considerable period of time, but when they do, there are implications in both the short and long term:
- Tingling sensation in the fingers, accompanied by numbness
- Lack of feeling in the fingers
- Problems with strength, grip, and dexterity
- Whitening of the fingers, with painful recovery
- Sleep disruption
- Muscular aches and pains in hands and lower arms
With continued use of power tools when you have HAVS, symptoms will get worse:
- The problems will present themselves more frequently, and have an effect on more of fingers as time goes on
- The lack of sensation in your fingers and hands could eventually become permanent and you won’t be able to feel anything at all
- Dexterity problems will only get worse; it will become increasingly difficult to pick up small objects (screws, nails, pens, pencils etc.)
- HAVS can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome; a nerve related illness which causes pain, numbness, tingling, and general weakness in the hands
The severity of the condition and the symptoms that are present can vary greatly depending on the length and level of exposure suffered by an individual.
Worried You Might Have Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
If you think that you may have Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome you should contact your GP in the first instance, and report your concerns to your employer and, if relevant, your union representative.
What To Look Out For
- Initially fingers are white and cool, then turn blue
- Fingers go bright red, and may be accompanied with a pins and needles sensation, as well as throbbing, pain, and numbness
- These attacks can vary in length and severity. Sometimes fingers will remain a blue colour after an HAVS episode
Your employer has a legal obligation to ensure that you are protected against HAVS in the workplace under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, as part of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
It should be noted that using a tool that vibrates slightly for a long time can be just as damaging as using a heavily vibrating tool for a short time. Your employer should be aware of the possible outcomes of using power tools, and make you aware of the dangers. If they do not fulfil this obligation, they could be breaking the law.
There are a number of things you can do to reduce the potential for HAVS when you are at work:
- You should only use low-vibration tools
- You should be permitted to take regular breaks whilst using vibration tools to reduce their impact
- Tools should be stored appropriately in a warm environment so they do not have cold handles when used
- Employers should provide you with all of the suitable protective clothing so you are not put at risk
Simpson Millar Could Help You
If you're concerned that Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is affecting you and your day-to-day life, Simpson Millar's highly experienced Industrial Disease solicitors can advise you on the best course of action so that you can claim compensation for HAVS.
If you employer has been negligent and put you at risk when they could have had a much safer system of work in place to protect you - then you could be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries under their Employer's Liability Insurance Policy.
Call us completely free on 0808 129 3320 for more information. Alternatively, use our no obligation, online enquiry form and we will call you back at a time convenient to you.
Already Made A Claim For HAVS?
If you've already made a claim for Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome, but feel like you may have under settled, Simpson Millar can help you.
This is a highly specialised area, and one where we have dealt with numerous cases where our clients are left debilitated by HAVS and live a very uncomfortable life. To add insult to injury, a previous lawyer has settled with their client's employer for an amount much below what is to be expected from HAVS cases.
If this sounds like you – Simpson Millar's expert team of solicitors can help you by proceeding with a claim against a negligent solicitor – so you can get the right level of compensation to help you live with your condition.
Call our helpline today on freephone: 0808 129 3320 or use our free, no obligation,
online enquiry form and we will call you back.