Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome risk potentially chronically underestimated
A new report commissioned by Reactec warns how the risk of developing the debilitating Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is still being routinely underestimated for UK workers.
In particular, the threat for ‘high risk’ individuals – those exposed to vibration, for example, from handheld power tools – is being underestimated by on average 76 percent according to a big data study. Using data gathered over a 9-month period from more than 4,000 UK tool operators and 250,000 workdays, the study used wearable technology to compare individual operator exposure based on assumed tool vibration magnitudes (typical of a standard risk assessment) against real-time tool vibration exposure in the field.
With more than 2 million workers at risk of developing HAVS in the UK, and currently 300 thousand people suffering advanced stages, the report concludes that traditional approaches do not appear to be doing enough to address the problem while technology advances exist to improve the effectiveness of reducing HAVS risk. HAVS disease-related employee claims have been rising sharply and are the highest reported industrial illness according to Health and Safety Executive.
Reactec is calling for an industry-wide attitudinal change to tackle the issue and mitigate the ‘hidden threat’ of HAVS which is widespread across many industries from construction to utilities.
- Wearable technology like Reactec’s HAVwear enables employers to comply with the 2005 Regulations and to go further in protecting employees. HSE guidance advises that wearables are acceptable for risk assessments when used in trigger time mode, making HAVwear a viable option for those in charge of risk assessments. However, HAVwear also provides an assessment of real-tool use. Such data gives unique insights into an individual’s vibration exposure. If this shows an individual is at higher risk than the trigger time mode assessment suggests, it empowers the organisation to go further in controlling the risk. Employers are then more fully meeting regulatory objectives to reduce HAVS risks as low as reasonably practicable, Jacqui McLaughlin, CEO of Reactec, said-
HAVS is irreversible and can be life-changing, but it is preventable if the right precautions and controls are in place. Sufferers can struggle with day-to-day activities like pulling up a zip, holding a glass or playing with their own children.
- I would wake up in the middle of the night with cramps. It would be like as if you had been lying on your hands and they had gone numb. Even if I picked up a little drill to do a few bits and bobs around the house, I felt the tingling and would be in constant pain, Speaking about the impact of living with the disorder Alan Finley, a HAVS sufferer, said.
- HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent.
- HAVS is serious and disabling, and nearly 2 million people are at risk.
- Damage from HAVS can include the inability to do fine work and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks.
- The costs to employees and to employers of inaction could be high.
- There are simple and cost-effective ways to eliminate the risk of HAVS.
- The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations focus on the elimination or control of vibration exposure.
- The long-term aim is to prevent new cases of HAVS occurring and enable workers to remain at work without disability.
- The most efficient and effective way of controlling exposure to hand-arm vibration is to look for new or alternative work methods that eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration.
- Health surveillance is vital to detect and respond to early signs of damage.
To find out more information and download the report authored by industry writer and expert, Paul Wilkinson, here: https://www.reactec.com/hands_up_for_action
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