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Bad vibrations: preventing hand-arm vibration syndrome

It has been 100 years since it first occurred to doctors to look closely at the reports from certain workers of numbness in their arms and fingers, as well as discoloration. Back in 1918, an occupational physician studied stone cutters who complained of the symptoms.

In 2017, the condition is known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Workers using vibrating power tools can suffer not only the aforementioned symptoms, but also nerve and muscle damage that results in weakened grip, as well as pain, a tingling sensation, and in the very worst cases, gangrene can even develop.

According to an occupational vibration consultant, about two million American workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration and approximately one half of them develop hand-arm vibration syndrome. Some experts say that those numbers too low: the condition is too often unrecognized by doctors and sometimes misdiagnosed as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The regular, occupational use of the following tools has been known to cause the condition:

  • Grinders
  • Drills
  • Jackhammers
  • Riveters
  • Chain saws
  • Impact wrenches

Tool company Chicago Pneumatic is now offering free online advice to power-tool workers to help them avoid damage to blood vessels and nerves in their fingers. “HAVS can result in irreversible, life-changing damage – but it is an entirely preventable condition." said a company spokesperson.

The firm offers a 7-point plan to reduce HAVS risks.

Workers who sustain on-the-job injuries are typically entitled to North Carolina workers' compensation benefits. If your claim is denied, you and your workers' comp attorney can appeal the decision.

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