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Law

Workers still at risk of Vibration White Finger

Vibrating tools and machinery can cause severe harm to workers that use them over a long period of time, increasing the risk of developing the condition vibration white finger (VWF)

Vibration white finger, also referred to as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger, is a secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome.  VWF began being referred to HAVS after it became known there were other symptoms in addition to white finger. The symptoms of vibration white finger are the vascular component of HAVS.

The workers at most risk of developing vibration white finger (VWF) work with tools such as chain saws and drills and usually work in construction, steelworking and coal mining.

Indeed, in the UK’s biggest ever personal injury compensation scheme, over £4bn has been paid to thousands of coal miners who made compensation claims through Coal Health Claims – a scheme  set up to pay compensation to UK coal miners, or the families of UK coal miners, who have contracted vibration white finger or a respiratory condition.

According to vibration white finger claims specialist, Sasha Whitley of Mellor Hargreaves Solicitors in Old ham, Greater Manchester, “over 170,000 coal miners in the UK are believed to have been paid compensation for vibration white finger. This is just one industry and it shows just how many workers have been affected, primarily through employer neglect. We are seeing an increase in VWF and HAVS claims across a number of industries now, the condition isn’t just confined to heavy industries such as coal mining, steel and construction.”

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) nearly 2 million people are at risk of developing HAVS.

What exactly is VWF/HAVS

Vibration white finger (VWF) is an extremely common condition caused the continuous use of vibrating tools and machinery. It is classed as an industrial disease and it is thought to affect tens of thousands of workers.

It is a disorder that affects the blood vessels, nerves, joints, muscles and connective tissue of the hand, wrist, and arm.

Workers who use hand-held or hand-guided power tools for more than a few hours each day are most at risk of developing vibration white finger. The symptoms of Vibration white finger can begin to appear months or even years after using vibrating machinery and the risk of developing the condition increases with the intensity and duration of exposure to vibration.

Symptoms of Vibration White Finger include:

  • Numb Fingers
  • Tingling Hands
  • Loss of strength and dexterity
  • Blanching or whiteness and redness of the fingers
  • Bone Cysts

Sufferers of vibration white finger will typically find it difficult to pick up small objects or in some cases struggle to continue their work. Symptoms of vibration white finger worsen in cold weather, due to blood flow being restricted

How to prevent vibration white finger

There are preventative measures you can take if you use vibrating tools and equipment on a regular basis to reduce the risk of developing vibration white finger.

Look after yourself, strong bodies are more resilient against vibration white finger, so it is important to stay fit and healthy.

Good blood flow to the hands is also very important so best advice is to try and avoid smoking, or taking other drugs or substances that will inhibit blood flow. It is also wise to maintain good cardiovascular health.

It is also important to:

  • Use modern equipment that reduces the transference of vibration to the hands.
  • Use vibration absorbing gloves or pads.
  • Work in short durations with frequent breaks. Take at least one 10 minute break every hour.
  • Hold tools and equipment loosely.
  • Try to keep your hands warm to keep the blood flowing.