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Power tool use can lead to vibration-related occupational injuries

Have you ever finished mowing the lawn with a power mower and felt an odd sensation in your hands and fingers? Other objects may feel temporarily different than they normally would. This change in sensation is most likely related to the vibrations of the mower transferring into your hands and arms.

In moderation, exposure to vibrating tools may be perfectly safe. But there are millions of people who use such tools all day, every day for work. Many of them develop symptoms of a little-known (but common) condition called hand-arm vibration syndrome, or HAVS.

According to one expert, approximately 2 million workers in the United States are exposed to hand-arm vibration each year, and up to half of these workers could develop HAVS. Symptoms of the condition include:

  • Pain the arms and hands
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakened grip
  • Loss of color (blanching) in the fingers

In some cases, workers with these symptoms mistake them for carpal tunnel syndrome. Developing HAVS can take as long as six years or as little as six months. While mild cases may be reversible, the condition becomes irreversible once the fingers blanch.

If you frequently use power tools at work, you are likely at risk of developing HAVS. Risks can be lowered by taking breaks throughout the day and by finding ways to reduce the vibrations that get transferred from the tool into your hands and arms.

If you are currently experiencing symptoms that could be HAVS, please discuss them with your supervisor or employer. You may be entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits.

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