Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome

Hand Arm Vibration, which can also be known as Vibration White Finger (VWF), is vibration transmitted into the hands, arms and fingers when working with vibrating tools or machinery. Too much exposure can cause Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), VWF and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (a nerve disorder which may involve pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in parts).

HAVS is a recognised industrial disorder affecting the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hand, wrist and arm, caused by excessive exposure to hand arm vibration tools.

Tier 1 – Tier 5 assessments

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations introduces a detailed “Tier system” for HAVS assessments.

Tier 1:  Initial questionnaire completed by the employee and reviewed by an Occupational Health professional before the employee starts work with vibrating tools.

Tier 2: An annual questionnaire for employee who remain exposed to vibrating tools.

Personnel disclosing symptoms during Tier 1 or 2 reviews should then be subject to a further detailed assessment.

Tier 3: If an employee declares vibration related symptoms a Tier 3 assessment will be carried out by a HAVS qualified nurse. This includes taking a detailed history and a range of specific clinical tests.  If appropriate the nurse will escalate this to a Tier 4 examination and may recommend interim adjustment of exposure to vibration. 

Tier 4:  This assessment will be carried out by a HAVS qualified Doctor and is when a formal diagnosis is made. It consists of a detailed history, assessment of symptoms and signs of HAVS. Tests include sensation, assessing the vascular system in the hands and look at grip strength. Furthermore, the doctor will advise on further surveillance and recommend limits to exposure.

Tier 5 – RPS is one of only a few organisations with the specialist equipment and expertise to offer Tier 5 HAVS testing in-house. This is a specialised test that can help a doctor diagnose HAVs and provide advice on fitness to work. Any such formal diagnosis must be reported by the employer under RIDDOR 1995.

How RPS can help?

RPS provides assessments for all five tiers of HAVS testing. We are one of only a small number of occupational health providers in the UK that have the necessary equipment required to complete Tier 5 testing. We have a highly specialised team of clinicians to support and advise our clients at each step of the process and can develop a suitable screening programme for your employees.

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