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Best Ideas to Prevent Hand-Arm Vibration Injuries When Operating Power Tools

Illinois workers' compensationOperating power tools and other heavy equipment can gradually cause wear and tear on the body. Illinois construction workers — as well as those who work in various other industries — know this too well. Whole-body vibrations from operating equipment can lead to a multitude of health problems, especially to the hands and limbs.

A Safety + Health Magazine article scrutinizes one of the most common health problems, known as hand-arm vibration syndrome. This condition is defined by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as “a collective term for vibration-induced neurological, vascular and musculoskeletal disorders in the hand-arm system.”

Common risk factors for hand-arm vibration syndrome

Workers who operate chainsaws, drills, grinders, riveters, and jackhammers are at the greatest risk of sustaining injuries related to hand-arm vibrations. Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Tingling and/or numbness
  • Pain in the arms and hands
  • Discoloration in fingers — which can spread from the fingertips to the other hand
  • Nerve and blood vessel damage leading to weakened grip

A particular condition that raises safety concerns is Raynaud's syndrome (also known as "white finger"). This condition occurs when the blood vessels in the fingers collapse due to repeated vibration. The effects can be disabling and irreversible.

Prevention is key

“Once the worker starts exhibiting symptoms, you’ve already gone past the point of no return," said Thomas McDowell, a program assistant coordinator for the NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division. "If employers can become aware of the disease and its development, then they can be cognizant of providing warm and dry work environments and seeing about … eliminating the need for workers to operate a handheld power tool in the first place.”

That's why it's important for employers in various industrial fields to educate their workers on the dangers of operating power tools. In order to mitigate the risk of developing these debilitating conditions, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers some tips, including:

  • Using damping methods or vibration isolators
  • Ensuring that tools and equipment are in proper working order
  • Alternating between vibrating and non-vibrating tools and equipment
  • Allowing workers to take frequent breaks for 10-15 minutes
  • Offering safety training and education on the hazards of vibrating tools
  • Urging workers to maintain warm and dry hands and to lightly grip tools

If you have sustained injuries linked to the use of power tools, you may be out of work for an extensive period of time. What's worse, you may never be able to perform the tasks you once did due to a permanent condition. That's why it's important to discuss your matter with an experienced Illinois workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.

Schweickert & Ganassin LLP proudly represents workers who have sustained repetitive motion injuries or long-term and permanent job-related injuries. Contact our law office today to set up your free case evaluation.

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