A wide variety of tools causes hand-arm vibration syndrome

A wide variety of tools causes hand-arm vibration syndrome

Doing a number of hand-arm vibration tier 4 assessments reminded me of the importance of the condition, which (despite modern screening and restrictions) can be an important (and preventable) cause of disability in employees.

Hand-arm vibration (HAV) can cause vibration white finger, a permanent and painful numbness and tingling in the hands and arms, also painful joints and muscle weakening. There is also evidence that it may cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Hand-held portable power tools (e.g. grinders, jackhammers, polishers) transmit vibration into the hands and arms. Employers should only purchase tools that have been designed and constructed to reduce the risk of vibration, and are suitable for their intended use. Training and information on how to use them safely should be provided.

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person’s job. Occasional and/or infrequent low exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations place duties on employers and the self-employed to assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Our assessment of hand-arm vibration (tier 4) will:

  • Take a history regarding a person's symptoms
  • Assess the blood vessels, nerves and function of the arms
  • Decide whether there is enough evidence to diagnose hand-arm vibration syndrome
  • Advise on continued exposure and whether the person is fit for work with or without adjustments

Further advice can be found on the HSE website: