Power tools have had profound effects on productivity in many different industries by reducing labor-intensive activities that once took multiple numbers of employees days or weeks to complete with manual labor. Even workers themselves appreciate the value of power tools with jobs being completed speedily and difficult tasks being made so much easier. However, many workers who regularly use power tools for many hours each day of their working lives are susceptible to a range of medical conditions arising from the constant vibrations emitted by using power tools. If endured to excess these conditions can eventually affect a person’s quality of life and even lead to them losing their livelihoods.
There are concerns for workers who are subjected to the vibrations of power tools with a hammer action for a minimum of half an hour each day. Just two hours of vibrations from rotary equipment qualifies a worker to have risk assessment tests. Under the current legislation from the Health and Safety Department, employers have a legal responsibility to ensure that any vulnerable employees are regularly sent for Hand and Arm Assessment tests known as HAV (Hand Arm Vibration).
White Finger Syndrome
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a term used for not one but a wide range of conditions that can be caused through the effects of overexposure to the vibrations of machinery or power tools. The common term for all these conditions is White Finger Syndrome due to the visible whitening of the fingers arising from the small capillaries and veins being affected to such a degree that they no longer function correctly. It is similar to the medical condition Raynaud’s Disease where the capillaries go into a spasm during cold weather causing an interrupted blood flow that can lead to fainting.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
In addition to poor circulation, White Finger includes damage to the nerves, joints and even the bones of the hands and wrists through the constant, repetitive vibrations. It is similar to the recognized Carpal Tunnel Syndrome where the median nerve in the wrist becomes compressed causing a variety of symptoms such as tingling and numbness. The thumbs can be severely affected which affects a person’s ability to grip items properly and if left untreated can lead to muscle wastage.
Tools that are to Blame
Almost any power tool can cause problems but those with a powerful repetitive hammer action are the most hazardous. These include impact wrenches, hammer drills, ratchet grinders and pedestal grinders. High-powered lawnmowers and hedge trimmers also lead to an employee needing hand arm assessment tests.
Many employees experience the tingling and numbness which are symptoms of White Finger Syndrome while they are using equipment and immediately afterward. When only slight damage is being caused to the nerves these symptoms will disappear in a short time but after years of exposure to hazardous tools they can become permanent and lead to irreversible damage. Contact Health Screen UK for further advice.