Imperial Health at Work
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Q&A

Do you have workers using vibrating tools?

HAVS (hand arm vibration) medical

Could your employees be at risk of developing Hand and Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)? A collective term for disabling symptoms that can occur from using hand-operated vibrating tools on a daily basis, HAVS can be extremely painful and serious – and once the damage is done, it is permanent. Some people still refer to this condition as ‘vibration white finger’, but HAVS is now the recognised medical term. In severe cases, HAVS is serious and disabling, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that nearly two million people are at risk. Damage from HAVS can include the inability to do fine, delicate work, and it is acknowledged that the loss of feeling and numbness is not only more disabling than the painful finger blanching (‘white finger’), but it is also irreversible. However, HAVS is preventable if detected early, which is why it is crucial for employers to assess and manage this risk.

Noise exposure / hearing surveillance

Could your employees be at risk from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)? Often underestimated and misunderstood, NIHL remains one of the most widespread health risks and problems in the workplace. Given that its effects can be severely debilitating and irreversible, the revised Noise at Work Regulations 2005 have now placed more stringent requirements on employers. The new regulations state that organisations need to establish employees’ noise exposure and measure noise levels in general areas using a noise survey. If specific, daily averaged, maximum noise exposures are reached, employers have to take action by law. However measuring noise in decibels can be confusing, as the action levels and exposure limits are now 68% lower than in the previous regulations from 1989 – which means that more employers now need to comply with these rules.

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