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Hand-arm vibration (HAV)

What you need to do

The law requires employers to assess the risk of injury from vibrating power tools and then take positive action to eliminate the risk or reduce it to a low level.

You must go on to inform, instruct and train those workers at risk so they know the symptoms and what is needed for their protection.

Health surveillance is also be required to prevent or diagnose any health effect linked with exposure to hand-arm vibration (HAV).

What you need to know

Hand-arm vibration is transmitted from a work activity into the hands and arms. This occurs when someone is:

Effects of exposure

People are more likely to suffer permanent harm if contact with a vibrating tool or workpiece is a regular and frequent part of their job.

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions called hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). The best known is vibration white finger (VWF), but vibration also links to specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Symptoms

For some people symptoms appear after only a few months of exposure but for others it may take years.

Symptoms are likely to get worse with repeated exposure and can lead to permanent damage, disfigurement, limits to the jobs someone can do and damaging effects on family and social activities.

The symptoms include any combination of:

The effects of these symptoms on people include:

Who is at risk in construction

Those construction activities presenting most risk are those where people work with hand-held or hand-guided power-tools and machines, such as:

Managing the risk

The HSE five-stage plan for managing construction health risks shows you how to deal HAV risks in more detail:

Updated 2012-11-21