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Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

BY Lee Craig
Health & Safety

Exposure to HAVS, although reducing, is still an issue in the workplace. In a recent prosecution, Calico Homes was fined £20,000 with prosecution costs of £4335.

Statistics between 2008 and 2017 show:

  • 7115 claims for HAVS, with 7095 affected men and 20 women.

  • 3285 claims for CTS, with 3030 affected men and 255 women.

In 2017, there were:

  • 270 New claims for HAVS.

  • 145 New claims for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

RIDDOR requires that a diagnosis, from a doctor, of work related HAVS be reported to the enforcing authority.

Where employees are, or may be, exposed to hand arm vibration the employer must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Wherever exposure at, or above, the Exposure Action Value (EAV)* of 2.5m/s2 (exposure averaged over an 8 hour day) occurs, certain control measures including health surveillance are required to control the risk.

The maximum vibration exposure permitted for any individual on a single day, is the Exposure Limit Value (ELV)* of 5 m/s2 (exposure averaged over an 8 hour day).

*The EAV and ELV are found in the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

Employers should also:

  • Arrange work to give employees breaks from the vibration.

  • Provide advice and routine health checks for employees at risk of HAVS.

  • Ensure tools and equipment are suitable and are maintained.

  • Ensure employees trained in the use of tools and equipment.

Employees should:

  • Report any hand arm vibration problems.

  • Co-operate with any working practices, including taking breaks.

  • Keep warm (clothes and gloves).

  • Minimise vibration by using the correct tool for the job.

  • Exercise your hands and fingers to improve blood flow.

  • Not ignore HAVS symptoms.

HAVS can cause damage to nerves and blood vessels, with the potential outcome being an inability to work or limit the:

  • Type of work the employee can do.

  • Length of time work can be undertaken.

  • Climate work can be undertaken in.

The early signs and symptoms to look out for may include:

  • Loss of sense of touch / numbness.
  • Severe tingling pain.
  • Loss of grip strength in your hands.
  • Painful wrist.
  • The tips of your fingers going white, in the cold and wet.

This risk of developing HAVS can depend upon a number of things including:

  • The length of time equipment is used.
  • The awkwardness of use of equipment.
  • The degree of grip required for equipment.
  • How cold and wet the operator gets when using equipment.
  • The levels of vibration transmitted from the equipment to the hand and the arm.

Any work activity that causes tingling or numbness in the fingers, or where finger blanching occurs should be regarded as suspect.

The Health and Safety Executive provide a hand arm vibration calculator for employers.  The calculator can be downloaded at

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