Safety Advice

The HSS Guide to Hand-Arm Vibration

July 20th 2017

What is Hand-Arm Vibration?

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into your hands and arms when you use hand-held powered work equipment. Too much exposure to hand-arm vibration can cause Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

What is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
  • HAVS affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hand, writst and arm
  • It can become severely disabling if ignored
  • It includes vibration white finger
What is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a nerve disorder which may involve pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in parts of the hand.

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

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • Not being able to feel things with your fingers
  • Loss of strength in your hands (you may be less able to pick up or hold heavy objects)
  • In the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers going white then red and being painful on recovery. If you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probbaly get worse. The numbness in your hands could become permanent
  • You will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails
When am I at risk?

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

  • Concrete breakers, concrete pokers
  • Sanders, grinders, disc cutters
  • Hammer drills
  • Chipping hammers
  • Chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers, powered mowers
  • Scabblers or needle guns
How can I help reduce the risks?

It is your employer’s responsibility to protect you against Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. You can help by:

  • Asking to use suitable lower-vibration tools. Ask HSS if there are better alternatives to the tool you have
  • Always use the right tool for each job (to do the job more quickly)
  • Check tools before using them to make sure they have been properly maintained and repaired
  • Make sure cutting tools are kept sharp so that they remain efficient
  • Reduce the amount of time you use a tool in one go, by doing other jobs in between
  • Avoid gripping or forcing a tool or work piece more than you have

Encourage good blood circulation by:

  • Keeping warm and dry
  • Exercising your fingers during work breaks
What is the colour coding system?

The traffic light colour coding system is used to give a rough indication of the vibration risk. All equipment in this catalogue follows this guide:

  • Red is high risk for tools that have more than 5m/s²
  • Amber is medium risk for tools that may be used for up 2 hours before reaching vibration Exposure Limit Value (ELV)
  • Green for tools that can be used intermittenly
How long can I use a tool for?

The amount of time you can safely use equipment varies depending on the type of tool, its condition, the materials you are working with and the job you are doing. It is essential that you check carefully to ensure you are not facing the risk of developing a hand-arm vibration-related disease, such as ‘Vibration White Finger’.

Vibration risk

The HSS Protection Pledge: 

  • Supply equipment from leading suppliers
  • We provide warning labels on all equipment detailing vibration risks
  • We provide information and support to allow users to assess risk and control exposure time
  • Provide specific instruction and recommendations on how to use the equipment with vibration risk
  • We correctly service and maintain our product range
To explore our diverse range of tools and equipment follow this link.

About the Author

Lauren King

Lauren works in our Ecommerce Team, with over 6 years of experience at HSS. She brings product knowledge and is able to give her advice on the right tool for the job no matter how big or small.

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