This website uses non-intrusive cookies to improve your user experience. You can visit our cookie privacy page for more information.

Social media

Javascript is required to use HSE website social media functionality.

Worried about your hands?

Advice for workers

Introduction

The information on this page is aimed mainly at workers

Am I at risk?

You are at risk if you regularly use hand-held or handguided power tools and machines such as:

You are also at risk if you hold workpieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders.

You are particularly at risk if you regularly operate:

As you are likely to be above the exposure action value set out in the regulations.

What are the early signs and symptoms to look out for?

If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:

People's own stories

Mechanical repair

A former mechanic technician hopes that by sharing his experiences with others, this may help save them some of the pain and financial worries that he is experiencing. He used and repaired a wide range of hand-held power tools, including chainsaws, but was signed off work in his 50s with vibration white finger:

'HAVS has affected my day-to-day living. I have a loss of manual dexterity and find it very difficult to use my fingers, in particular my thumbs, coupled with loss of feeling and sensations in various sections of my hands. Gripping with my thumbs is very difficult and painful, for example when using a brush. I dread the cold winter months and even during at rest periods I experience coldness and painfulness. I can no longer do some of the hobbies I used to enjoy, like swimming and angling.'

Heavy fabrication

A former technician (56) who worked with pneumatic tools describes his experiences.

"I suffer from very cold hands, they’re worse in winter than in summer but they’re still cold at this present day even though it’s a warm day. When I used the tools, sometimes there’s a frost on the tools, the pneumatic tools, when you’ve used them and that accentuates the feeling and they’re dead very dead, numb all the while. I have difficulties picking up things, small things, pushing buttons. I drop things more and don’t know the amount of pressure I’m putting on finger and thumb"

Shipbuilding

Another worker (35) describes the effects HAVS has had on his life and leisure.

“I play darts, can’t do that any more, I can’t do freshwater fishing, can’t feel the lines, fine lines between the fingers, can’t feel them at all. Can’t pick up small screws, DIY, quite a few things I can’t do a lot of now. I can’t turn over the pages in a paper, you have to wet your fingers all the time because you can’t feel the paper between the fingers”

Want to help?

Please contact the Noise and Vibration Programme Unit via our Feedback page if you wish to tell us your story, so that a short summary can appear here for the benefit of others. We are particularly interested in stories that turn out well in the end e.g. vibration problems picked up at an early stage and simple steps taken to prevent further damage for similar workers.

Tasks and industries

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:

Tools

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:

How do I protect myself?

It is your employer’s responsibility to protect you against HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome, but you should help by asking your employer if your job could be done in a different way without using vibrating tools and machines. If this cannot happen:

What else can I do?

Help your employer to stop HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome before they become a problem for you.

Where can I find out more?

For more information on vibration,

HSE’s free leaflet Hand-arm vibration - Advice for employees (INDG296) (pocket card contains notes on good practice which you may find helpful)

Download HSE’s free leaflet Control the risks from hand-arm vibration - Advice for employers on the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (INDG175 - rev2) (leaflet for employers on good practice and considering what they need to do)

You can also order a copy of these publications through HSE Books.

Who can help?

Your employer has a duty to protect you and should be working on measures to reduce the risk. The law says your employer has to find out what levels of vibration you are exposed to and assess the risk to your health from vibration at work. See Advice for employers

Safety Representative/ Employee representative. Trade-union-appointed safety reps or other employee representatives can be very useful in communicating problems, inspecting documents and consulting employers over measures to meet these regulations.

Your Company Doctor or your GP. This may be an occupational health professional where you have a company occupational health scheme or your general practitioner through the NHS.

2012-11-21