What is HAVS?

What is hand-arm vibration?

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders.

Vibration at Work (HSE) Regulations 2005

Employers are legally required to conduct:

  • Exposure assessment
  • Exposure reduction
  • Health Monitoring
  • Information and Training

When is it hazardous?

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 exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

What health effects can it cause?

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as handarm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Read more about health effects.

The effects on people include:

  • pain, distress and sleep disturbance;
  • inability to do fine work (eg assembling small components) or everyday tasks (eg fastening buttons);
  • reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions (ie most outdoor work) which would trigger painful finger blanching attacks;
  • reduced grip strength which might affect the ability to do work safely.

These effects can severely limit the jobs an affected person is able to do, as well as many family and social activities.

Which jobs and industries are most likely to involve hand-arm vibration?

Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:

  • building and maintenance of roads and railways;
  • construction;
  • estate management (eg maintenance of grounds, parks,x water courses, road and rail-side verges);
  • forestry;
  • foundries;
  • heavy engineering;
  • manufacturing concrete products;
  • mines and quarries;
  • motor vehicle manufacture and repair;
  • public utilities (eg water, gas, electricity, telecommunications);
  • shipbuilding and repair.

What kinds of tools and equipment can cause ill health from vibration?

There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are:

  • chainsaws;
  • concrete breakers/road breakers;
  • cut-off saws (for stone etc);
  • hammer drills;
  • hand-held grinders;
  • impact wrenches;
  • jigsaws;
  • needle scalers;
  • pedestal grinders;
  • polishers;
  • power hammers and chisels;
  • powered lawn mowers;
  • powered sanders;
  • scabblers;
  • strimmers/brush cutters.


BAM Nuttall - Roy Jackson, Senior Safety Advisor

“BAM Nuttall has always tried to stay on top of the issue of HAVS and ensure the safety of our workforce. In the past, we were trying to accurately estimate the amount of vibration that staff were exposed to ourselves, but this was a lengthy and time-consuming process and we knew that we needed a better system. “When we first introduced HAVmeters two years ago, we saw them as the best option to use to stay ahead of the game on vibration safety. The devices give us a valuable monitoring system that makes sure we know who is working with what machinery and for how long - and provides us with accurate, detailed records of what our teams are exposed to. “We now use HAVmeters in every project where our staff operate vibrating equipment and it is easily the best system on the market for monitoring HAV exposure. By using this equipment, we ensure that we not only keep our workforce safe from injury but also have a robust defence in place to protect ourselves from liability when it comes to vibration issues.”