Exposure to vibration can have serious health effects. Vibration from hand-held tools can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), which affects many workers in the construction industry. Whole-body vibration (WBV) can also occur in the construction industry and may affect drivers of construction vehicles, often resulting in back injury.
HAVS is a range of conditions caused by exposure to vibration through the hands. The condition is permanent and disabling; there is no cure. The damage being done affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles, bones and other tissues of the hands and arms. Symptoms within the hands often include the following.
- Loss of sensation.
- Loss of manual dexterity.
- Painful throbbing.
- Extreme burning in the fingers and hands, especially after they have been exposed to cold or have become wet.
There may also be muscle fatigue and loss of grip strength, as well as conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis).
A common symptom of HAVS is finger blanching. This appears as discolouration of the fingers, which may be temporary at first but can become permanent with longer exposure.
People with HAVS often have problems with everyday tasks (such as fastening buttons). It is also painful, particularly when the hands are cold or damp.
HAVS is a progressive illness. This means that if you have the condition, the symptoms will not improve but will get worse over time.