What is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome?

Deborah Krelle
Author:
Deborah Krelle
Partner, Head of Industrial Disease
Date:
09/01/2019

This article was updated on 16th June 2022

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is a term that covers all the disorders associated with exposure to hand-transmitted vibration. It used to be known more commonly as Vibration White Finger.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is caused by the repeated, frequent use of tools that vibrate, such as jackhammers, grinders, drills, needle guns and many other hand-held power tools.

While both names are often used interchangeably these days, they’re slightly different. Vibration White Finger tends to refer to the vascular symptoms, causing the whitening to the fingers, whilst HAVS covers all the symptoms that may arise. HAVS is preventable but once the damage is done it is usually permanent.

HAVS symptoms are generally twofold:

      • The nerves are affected, leading to pins and needles, tingling and numbness in one or more fingers. HAVS symptoms may be mild at first and affect only the tips of the finger and may come and go. Where symptoms are more severe, there may be numbness extending further down the fingers and impaired dexterity and grip strength.
      • The vascular symptoms, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, occur in bouts and are triggered by cold. These are the symptoms of ‘white finger’, causing the fingers to turn white until they are rewarmed, at which point the individual may feel some pain, discomfort and tingling as the fingers turn back to normal. These attacks may typically last from 5 minutes to an hour.

What Should I do if I Think I Might have HAVS?

If you think you have got HAVS because of your job, you should immediately inform your manager. They should arrange for a health assessment for you to confirm the diagnosis and arrange treatment. It’s important to know that with HAVS, early intervention is best. Your employer should also launch an investigation. If your employer does not obtain medical advice for you then you should contact your GP as soon as possible.

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Can I Claim Compensation for HAVS?

It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure that the tools you’re using are well-maintained and that they’re aware of the risks of using equipment that vibrates. They should also provide you with warnings about the possible health risks of using these tools for long periods, give you adequate breaks and monitor employees who use equipment that vibrates.

Employers should also carry out a HAVS risk assessment.

So if your employer has failed to do these and you’ve developed symptoms of HAVS, you could be entitled to claim compensation for your injuries under their Employer’s Liability Insurance Policy.

If you’re noticing the HAVS symptoms mentioned above and you’ve been working with vibrating tools at work, then get in touch with our Industrial Disease Solicitors for free legal advice. We may be able to help you prove that your employer was negligent and put you at risk, so you can get the compensation and rehabilitation support you deserve.

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