What is Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome?
Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) is the exposure of the hands and arms to vibrating surfaces. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as rock hammers and chainsaws, hand-guided equipment such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders.
Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health. However, regular and frequent exposure to HAV can lead to Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).
Exposure to this type of vibration energy through the hand is known to cause irreversible damage to nerves, blood vessels, muscles and bones. Once the damage is done it is permanent.
The HSE estimates that 2m people in the UK are at risk of developing HAVS by using power tools at work. HAVS related illness is the highest reported RIDDOR.
The good news is that HAVS is preventable.
Key Facts about HAVS
Hand-arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is the medical term for symptoms caused by damage that may occur in the fingers, hands and arms when working with tools, machinery or surfaces.
- Tingling/or numbness in the hands and fingers.
- Not being able to feel things properly
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
- Blanching (whiteness) of the fingers (triggered by exposure to cold)
- Loss of strength in the hands
- Reduced mobility
- Pain in the hand and arm
The effects of HAV exposure can seriously effect a person's ability to carry out tasks at work, at home and to do the hobbies they enjoy. Effects can include:
- Pain, distress and sleep disturbance
- Inability to do fine work (e.g pulling up a zip, holding a glass)
- Reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions (which would trigger painful finger blanching attacks)
- Reduced grip strength which might effect the ability to do work safely.
The symptoms of HAVS and CTS may come and go, but with continued exposure to vibration they may become permanent. This can happen after only a few months of exposure, but in most cases it will happen over a few years. HAV Syndrome is irreversible, while CTS may be improved with surgery.
- Building and maintenance of roads and railways
- Estate Management & maintenance
- Heavy engineering
- Manufacturing concrete products
- Mines & quarries
- Motor vehicle manufacture & repair
- Public utilities
- Shipbuilding & repair
- Concrete breakers / road breakers
- Cut-off saws (for stone etc)
- Hammer drills
- Hand-geld grinders
- Impact wrenches
- Needle scalers
- Pedestal grinders
- Power hammers and chisels
- Powered lawn mowers
- Strimmers & bush cutters
Workers at risk of contracting HAVS
People currently debilitated by HAVS
The short time it can take for symptoms to develop
Around 25% of all HAVS RIDDOR reportable incidents come from the construction sector. Add to that a tendency to rely on manufacturers' declared laboratory condition data and it is clear more representative assessments are needed.
Nearly a quarter of all HAVS reportable incidents come from manufacturing. The incidence is highest for manufacturing of machinery, vehicles and transport.
Over 90% of occupational health RIDDORs reported to the ORR are HAVS despite the 5 year plan launched in 2014 to eliminate new cases. Data shows an underestimate of exposure assessment in assumed vibration level.
There are around 60 to 80 reports of HAVS within the utility sector each year amounting to nearly 1 in 10 of all reported RIDDOR incidents.
In our latest study, around 15-20 people from the agriculture, forestry, fishing and veterinary industries are reported as being diagnosed with HAVS every year.
MOTOR VEHICLE REPAIR
The prevalence of HAVS within MVR is one of the very highest at over 1 per 1,000 employees. Varied work with prolonged period on tools calls for more stringent attention to controls.
Industry-specific White Papers
Our industry-specific papers set out to explain why HAVS continues to be a reason for skilled workers to be taken off the tools, as well as explain how technology can be used to manage your employees’ exposure and prevent irreversible damage effectively and inexpensively.
Key Evidence & Research
Peer reviewed publication / HAVS
Validity of self reported occupational exposures to hand transmitted and whole body vibration
Sources of recent occupational exposure to vibration seem to be reported with reasonable accuracy, but durations of exposure to HTV are systematically overestimated, particularly when the exposure is intermittent and for short periods
Conference paper / HAVS
Could deviation from static and declared vibration dosage assumptions in the real use by workers of power tools be preventing further progress on reducing HAVS in affected populations?
The authors have analysed a large data set of records from the monitoring of operators exposed to Hand Arm Vibration over a 9-month period from September 2017 to May 2018, from within over 400 private and public organisations totalling over 246,500 days of monitored HAV exposure.
Peer reviewed publication / HAVS
Assessing correlation of human response to vibration through vibrotactile threshold shift with vibration exposure determined on the subject
The purpose of this paper is to examine the eﬀectiveness of the proposed consideration for hand transmitted vibration measurement on the human.
Legal HAV obligations & regulations
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 Under these regulations it is an employers duty to eliminate or control vibration exposure risk to as low as reasonably practical (ALARP). Suggested actions include:
- An assessment of the risks to employees from exposure to vibration, including assessment of employees’ daily exposure to vibration.
- Information, instruction and training to tool users and their managers.
- Health surveillance when required
In 2019, the directors of a leading business were suspended following three workers being diagnosed with HAVS.
- £500k Recorded HSE fine in 2018
- £118k Single person claim against an employer
- 300% Rise in financial penalties relating to HAVS fines since new sentencing guidelines were introduced in 2016
BC Legal's analysis of changes in the 15th edition of the Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (JC Guidelines) to previous
By law, an employer must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to HAV to as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
- The purpose of assessment is to enable management of risk
- An assessment is adequate if it provides enough information to enable you to take the most appropriate action
- Helps to target highest exposure processes (biggest gains)
A key part of the assessment is an evaluation of exposure.Your evaluation should:
- Identify where there might be a risk from vibration and who is likely to be affected
- Contain a reasonable estimate of your employees’ exposure
- Identify what you need to do to comply with the law e.g. whether vibration control measures are needed, and, if so, where and what type
- Identify any employees who need to be provided with health surveillance
For each worker or task
1. Decide what needs to be assessed:
- Operating modes
- Accessories (bits, abrasive grades..)
- Postures, forces, environment
- Human factors - experience, motivation, fatigue
2. Take account of:
- Machines or tools used
- Materials worked
- Observe the process first and decide on your approach
- Ensure the assessment is typical of future work
- What tools are available to aid risk assessment
The HAV Exposure Points System
This is the points system devised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to make assessing daily exposure to vibration simpler. It allows risk from using more than one tool type to be easily combined. Exposure expressed in points is simply added for each exposure activity.
For each exposure the points system combines the vibration magnitude during the exposure with the time of the exposure.
- The exposure action value (EAV - 2.5m/s2 A(8)) is 100 points
- The exposure limit value (ELV - 5m/s2 A(8)) is 400 points
- The HSE have published a calculator for you to enter specific exposure information into an excel type application and a ready reckoner to show graphically exposure within buckets of time and vibration.
Alternatively you can apply the following formula:
- Exposure points = 2 x T(exposure time in hours) x V(vibration magnitude in m/s2) x V(vibration magnitude in m/s2)
Morgan Sindall - BBMV Cross Rail Project
"Deploying Reactec HAVwear is recognition that compliance to the directive is not enough. For example using a paper based system complied with the basic requirement of the directive but the information collected was weak and did not support the essence of the directive for continuous reduction. Continuous digital monitoring goes beyond the directive and establishes a useable management tool to raise awareness and educate tool users". "The Reactec Analytics Platform delivers an auditable, tamper proof system that shows each and every operator’s exposure. This data can be recalled at any time either from the platform or the archive to show an operators total exposure history. This would be irrefutable evidence more robustly protecting both the business and the client".
Bradley Allen, HSQE Manager
“Historically we have tracked tool usage as part of a measure of controls to understand exposure risk by requiring the tool store man to note down operator estimates of tool use. This was achieved by the store man asking each operator their tool usage estimate when returning their tools. We wanted to improve this process to not only reduce the workload for operators to not only remember their tool usage but also the time taken by the store man to record those details and for managers to translate the data into exposure information. We looked at how we could improve this process and the Reactec system addressed these objectives by automating the whole process so tool operators did not have to estimate usage and managers could spend less time documenting and more time reducing the exposure risk. The system also helped reduce the margin of error to provide far more accurate exposure data which helped us better understand the effectiveness of our controls.
Harrington Builder's PLC Atlas Copco
"HAVWEAR has improved health and safety measures at Harringtons Builders Plc. Using the data collected from HAVWEAR, Scott is able to assess correct usage of the machines, follow up with potentially dangerous overexposures quickly and efficiently, as well as having concrete, reliable data for the company health and safety records. Another advantage that HAVWEAR provides is “The simplistic benefit of this technology is that the employees know that something is being monitored, they see a real input into their safety.”
Andrew Jones, SHEQ Assistant
Currall Lewis & Martin Construction Ltd
What has impressed me is the state of the analytics database. It has reduced my work load by about 90% while allowing me to concentrate on the important part of HAVs management, managing HAVS.
“Daily monitoring has provided robust exposure data to support the defence of employee litigation of HAVS exposure on recent claims where claimant payments have been considerably reduced”
Geoff Sadler, Deputy Gardens and Grounds Manager
University of Leicester
HAVWEAR has made such a difference and we are so grateful for the insight it has provided. It has highlighted issues that we could not have foreseen, as well as faulty tools that we would not have been able to identify otherwise
Ian Macalister, Partner
HAVS claims are a “significant and expensive feature of the claims environment”
HAV Risk Assessment Management
Below are a series of five webcasts covering the topic on Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) exposure risk ranging from what is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome and its causes and effects on employers and employees to exposure risk assessments, tool measurement and managing the risk including the hierarchy of controls, health surveillance and training.
The material used in the webcasts have been collected and compiled by Reactec with a number of leading health and safety professionals.
Who should view the webcasts?
These webinars are aimed at supervisor/manager level, those who are responsible for assessing, controlling and managing hand-arm vibration risk in the workplace.