North Carolina workers who are exposed to hand-arm vibrations from using power tools on their jobs have a significant risk of developing hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS. Out of 2 million workers whose jobs involve the regular use of power tools, an estimated 1 million will develop this syndrome.
HAVS can result in numbness, tingling in the fingers, damaged blood vessels, and, in severe cases, gangrene. There are certain things workers can do in order to protect themselves from developing the syndrome. Workers should try to keep their hands warm and they should not smoke. They should also use as light of a grip as they possibly can on the tool and make certain to maintain it regularly. Taking a 10-minute break away from the tools each hour can reduce their risk, as can keeping the cold exhaust away from their arms and hands while using pneumatic tools.
Workers should always wear gloves certified to the ISO 18019 standard when they regularly use power tools. If symptoms appear, seeking medical attention immediately is important to prevent further damage from occurring.
HAVS is considered to be a recognized workplace injury. This means that workers who develop the syndrome may be eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Benefits may pay for all of their medical expenses and associated treatment needs for the syndrome. If HAVS results in the temporary or permanent disability of the worker, benefits may also be available to replace a portion of their income on a monthly basis. Workers will need to demonstrate that their syndrome resulted from their jobs. An employer or their insurance carrier may try to dispute or deny the claim. A worker who has been diagnosed with HAVS may want to seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney to prepare and file the claim.