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.


Willmott Dixon

“Safety has increased and also productivity – a double win”.