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29 February, 2024

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Vibration injuries threaten 1.2m workers

01 February, 2000

Vibration injuries threaten 1.2m workers


Exposure to vibration-induced "white finger" is more common than previously thought, says the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). A study for the HSE has found that over a million workers are exposed to potentially harmful levels of hand-arm vibration.

Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is the name given to a group of diseases, of which the most widely known is vibration white finger. The study - carried out by Professor Mike Griffin of the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research and Dr Keith Palmer of the Medical Research Council`s Environmental Epidemiology Unit - found that:

  • almost 4.9 million people are exposed to hand-transmitted vibration a week;
  • over 1.2 million workers are exposed to vibration levels at which HSE recommends that employers should be taking action; and that
  • 242,000 cases of cold-induced finger blanching are likely to be attributable to hand-arm vibration.

The study also found wide differences in the ways workers use tools and in the vibration caused by similar tools. Few of the companies studied had health surveillance systems for vibration-induced injuries.

"We already know that work equipment that transmits powerful vibration to peoples` hands can cause diseases like vibration white finger and carpal tunnel syndrome," says Brian Coles of the HSE`s Physical Agents Policy Unit. "This new research suggests that the problem may be much more widespread than previously thought."

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