31st May, 2022
If you work with vibrating tools or equipment, you should know about HAVS. If you use powered hand tools, reducing your risks today might save you hands in later years. But what is HAVS, and how do you know if you have it?
Nearly 2 million people in the UK are at risk from HAVS. It's a painful, disabling and serious condition that's permanent, but preventable.
Are you at risk? Has HAVS already started affecting you? Let's get to grips with HAVS so you know how to avoid it.
HAVS stands for Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome. The condition develops from the use of hand-held power tools and is a significant health risk wherever powered hand tools are used for substantial lengths of time.
The higher the levels of the vibration you are exposed to, and the longer durations you are exposed for, the higher risk you are at of developing HAVS. The higher the levels of vibration a tool has, the less time it is safe to use.
Symptoms of HAVS include tingling and numbness, loss of strength, and vibration white finger.
HAVS is the result of damage to:
Find out more about the HAVS Symptoms You Need To Spot Before It's Too Late.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is caused by vibration exposure.
HAVS can be caused by operating vibrating equipment such as breakers, wacker plates, hammer drills and even lawnmowers.
HAVS can also be caused by holding materials that are being processed by machines causing vibration.
One-off or infrequent exposure is unlikely to pose a risk. However, regular exposure to high levels of vibration can lead to permanent injury. This becomes more likely when a person’s job involves contact with vibrating equipment or machinery.
Types of vibrating equipment known to cause HAVS include:
Regular exposure to vibration can cause permanent damage to the nerves, muscles and joints of the hands and arms, and collectively these injuries are referred to as Hand-Arm Vibrations Syndrome (HAVS).
Anyone who is regularly exposed to vibrating tools and equipment is at risk from HAVS.
Even if you are not within an at-risk industry, the type of work you carry out may put you at risk. If you have regular and frequent exposure to vibration, you should consider yourself at risk from HAVS.
Those working in the construction, engineering and mining industries are most at risk, due to the nature of the works and the likelihood of regular contact with vibrating equipment.
HAVS is a condition that mostly affects workers in:
Make sure your workforce is aware of the risks with the free vibration toolbox talk.
As we mentioned earlier in this post, HAVS is permanent.
Once the symptoms of HAVS develop, you cannot reverse them. Because HAVS is irreparable damage to your nerves, muscles and joints, prevention is the only option.
There is a legal requirement to adequately control and manage the risks presented by vibrating equipment used within your business.
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations place legal limits on the amount of vibration a person can be exposed to. These are known as EAVs (exposure action values) and ELVs (exposure limit values).
Find out more about the legal limits in HAVS exposure limits (EAV, ELV and what they mean).
The good news is that there are several things you can put in place to reduce the risks of vibrating equipment. Even better, a number of these controls are of no or little cost, and can other benefits such as productivity and quality improvements.
Control measures include:
Look for alternative ways of working which eliminate the need for vibrating equipment. For example, using pre-cast concrete which has channels formed for services removes the need to create channels for services through concrete slabs.
Make sure the right equipment is selected for the job. Equipment manufacturers are generally trying to improve the vibration performance of their products, so new tools and machines are likely to emit lower vibration than older equipment.
You should minimise the time individual members of your workforce are exposed to vibrating equipment. By rotating those using the equipment, you can break up continuous periods of vibration exposure.
Steps such as avoiding poor posture can greatly reduce the impact of exposure to vibrating tools and equipment. Designing the work to use jigs or mechanical aids to hold vibrating materials or tools can also reduce or prevent exposure.
Certain types of PPE such as gloves can help reduce the risk, particularly during cold weather, by keeping hands and fingers warm when operating vibrating equipment.
Keeping tools in good working order with regular maintenance will help reduce the levels of vibration your workforce is exposed to.
Vibration mounts that are worn out, rotating parts that are out of balance, and tools that have gone blunt all increase the vibrating output and therefore increase the risk.
You can check if your vibration exposure is within legal limits, and calculate exposure for one or multiple tools with our free HAVS calculator.
This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.
Learn how to control vibration, avoid hand arm vibration syndrome, and stay within the legal limits. Find out more and get your certificate.HAVS Awareness Course
There are two HAVS exposure limits, and these are legal limits for the amount of vibration you can be in contact with daily. The limits are defined in the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations and are known as the exposure limit value (ELV) and the exposure action value (EAV).Read Post
If you work with vibrating tools or equipment, you should know about HAVS. If you use powered hand tools, reducing your risks today might save you hands in later years. But what is HAVS, and how do you know if you have it?Read Post
If you work with vibrating tools or equipment, you need to act fast to spot and prevent the early symptoms of HAVS. Because once symptoms start to develop, they are permanent. Hand-arm vibration syndrome cannot be reversed or cured. Here are the early warning signs you need to look out for...Read Post