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Over the last ten years (2008 to 2017), 7,115 people have made claims from the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit scheme because they had developed a form of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome.

However, the number of new cases in Scotland and the wider UK is on the decline. In 2018 the Health and Safety at Work Executive reported that 2017 saw 270 new cases of HAVS in Great Britain, compared to 455 in 2016 and 635 in 2015. In 2010 1,210 new cases were reported (the highest over the ten-year period, so while it is clear that the situation is improving, the situation is not yet resolved. For example, men are heavily over-represented in claims; of the 7,115 claims made, only 20 were for women suffering from the industrial injury.

CASESYEAR1,4001,2001,00080060040020002008200920192011201220132014201520162017* New reported cases of HAVS in Great Britain

Despite the downward trend in the occurrence of the condition, it remains one of the most common industrial diseases, and affects people who regularly work with vibrating tools. Such equipment, regardless of size, can severely damage the blood vessels, joints and nerves of the hands and wrists.

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Causes

So, what causes hand arm vibration syndrome? Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is caused when the tissues in your hands and arms are injured by vibrations from an external source, such as a power tool or a piece of vibrating machinery. According to the Health and Safety Executive, around 2 million people in the UK are at risk of developing the condition.

Over time vibrations can injure the blood vessels, nerves and muscles in the fingers, hands or arms, resulting in episodes in which there will be a loss of sensation or weakness in the fingers or hands. Sometimes the digits will turn white – which is why the condition is often referred to as Vibration White Finger.

The impact of the vibrations will vary from person to person and the frequency at which you are exposed. As a general rule, however, any damage caused by the vibrations will be permanent.

HAVS is most commonly caused by working with:

  • Hand-held power tools, such as a pneumatic drill
  • Equipment that has to be hand-guided, such as a circular saw
  • Materials that have to be hand-fed into a machine, such as a pedestal grinder

Employers' duty of care

Employers owe a duty of care to those using vibrating tools at work, and these are made explicit under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. For example, they must ensure vibration exposure levels are kept within safe levels.

Health surveillance can include identifying workers who may be at particular risk when exposed to hand-arm vibration, such as those suffering from blood circulatory conditions such as Raynaud's Disease.

If they do not provide adequate measures to protect you from the effects of vibrating machinery, tools and work processes, and you develop HAVS as a result, you could be entitled to compensation.

Reducing the incidence of hand arm vibration syndrome

The Guidance to The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 shows that there are a number of ways that employers and managers can reduce the incidence of HAVS in their workforces. 

These include the following:

  • Introduce ways to eliminate or reduce exposure
  • Introduce ergonomically designed work equipment
  • Provide auxiliary equipment
  • Ensure suitable maintenance of tools and machinery
  • Ergonomically design workplaces
  • Provide workers with training and information
  • Provide adequate rest periods
  • Reduce exposure to cold and damp

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Compensation Claims

Our specialist industrial disease solicitors have secured compensation for many people who have suffered injury caused by their exposure to vibration at work.  

If you or someone you know has developed Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, then you should contact us without delay as there are strict time limits that must be adhered to.

If you have been exposed to vibration in the workplace and have developed permanent loss of sensation in your fingers, are experiencing difficulty picking up and manipulating small objects, or you have been diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, then you should contact Thompsons without delay as there are strict industrial injury claim time limits that must be adhered to.

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