Recent research in Sweden indicates that duration in the form of the number of years spent working with a vibrating tool could play a more significant role in the development of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) than previously thought.
In a study of over 800 Swedish car mechanics working with a vibrating nut-runner, 24 percent of the mechanics reported white finger, 25 percent had persistent numbness and 13 percent had a reduced grip force. But of the mechanics who had used the tool for 20 or more years, the incidence of white finger went up to 25 percent. Clinical examinations also revealed neurological symptoms in the hands in about 25 percent of subjects overall, and 40 percent of the subjects exposed for over 20 years.
The Swedish study participants reported using a vibrating nut-runner for an average of only 14 minutes each day, but from a long-term perspective, the participants had used the tools for an average of 12 years. The researchers suggest that the focus of the current standards could underestimate the risk of long-term exposure.
HAVS is a condition caused by vibration applied to the hand/arms through a tool or piece of equipment that can result in a reduction of blood flow to the hands and fingers, and is most commonly found in production and mechanical work where vibrating tools like jackhammers or sanders might be used. Last year, however, a 15-year old boy was believed to have developed HAVS from long-term use of a vibrating video game controller.
More information on vibration exposure and tips for reducing its risks can be found in the May, 2003 issue of The Ergonomics Report.
Source: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine; ZDNET.co.uk