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In a recent study looking at the use of vibrating tools in Swedish auto mechanics it was found that exposure over time was a precipitating factor in the likelihood of developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). The syndrome is the result of vibration, which causes capillaries in the hand to constrict thereby reducing blood flow to the hands and fingers.
In a study of over 800 auto mechanics working with a vibrating nut runner the workers used the nut runner an average of 14 minutes per day for an average of 12 years. Twenty-four percent reported what is referred as white finger (fingers turn white indicating decreased blood flow), 25 percent had persistent numbness, 13 percent had reduced grip strength and 25 percent had neurological symptoms.
As a group, however, those who used the tool for over 20 years were at greatest risk with an increase to 25 percent for the incidence of white finger and 40 percent demonstrating neurological symptoms.
HAVS is typically found in mechanics, jackhammer operators, and construction and industrial workers in which powered hand tools are frequently used. It has long been known that cold operating conditions pose a significant risk factor but the researchers indicated that the risks of long-term exposure might have been underestimated.
1) Michael, Rachael, Jeanie Croasmun. “Duration a Key Factor In Hand Vibration Injury” Ergonomics Today™ 7 May, 2003
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