Each year, approximately 500,000 American construction workers risk developing hand-arm vibration syndrome, a serious condition caused by using vibrating power tools.
Vibration Tools Can Lead to Disability
Construction workers are considered high-risk for certain accidents and injuries related to falls from heights, building demolitions, and power tools used on construction sites. Heavy, handheld vibration tools such as jackhammers, plate compactors, and grinders used on construction projects can cause a serious health condition known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) which can lead to pain and a range of symptoms and disabilities.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome is caused by vibrating power tools that have a strong shaking and pulsing motion. When held, the continual shaking motion can affect blood circulation in the fingers, hands, arms, neck, and shoulders. Developing HAVS depends on the duration of exposure and level of tool vibration, but workers who use vibrating hand tools daily can develop HAVS in as little as six months.
HAVS is a serious health condition seen by work injury lawyers. It can damage blood vessels, nerves, and muscles, and once it develops it is irreversible, often leading to permanent disability. HAVS symptoms include:
- Tingling sensations
- Muscle weakness and/or fatigue
- Discoloration of the fingers
- Poor range of motion in fingers, hands, and arm joints
- Temporary or permanent dysfunction in hands and arms
Workers who develop HAVS also have a greater risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful joint condition, and Raynaud’s syndrome, a painful circulatory condition that causes the fingers to turn white and lose feeling and dexterity. Severe cases of Raynaud’s can lead to gangrene and possible amputation of affected body parts.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not require safety standards on vibration power tools used in the construction industry. However, OSHA recommends that employees protect workers who use them by limiting daily hours of use, with 10 to 15-minute breaks every hour. Employers are urged to alternate daily tasks with vibrating and non-vibrating tools, keep vibrating tools in proper working order, properly train workers in the use and hazards of power tools, and educate workers on HAVS signs and symptoms.
In Illinois, work-related injuries like HAVS, Raynaud’s, and carpal tunnel syndrome that occur during the normal course of employment are usually covered under workers’ compensation claims. If claims are denied, a Chicago work injury lawyer can file an appeal with proper proof and documentation.