Those who work in construction and other industrial sectors throughout Pennsylvania know the toll operating power tools and heavy machinery can take on their bodies. Among the many risks associated with this type of work, vibrations to the body — especially the hands and arms — can lead to a variety of health complications.
The hand-arm health risks of working with power tools
An article by Safety + Health Magazine identifies one of the most prevalent health complications, called hand-arm vibration syndrome. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines it as “a collective term for vibration-induced neurological, vascular and musculoskeletal disorders in the hand-arm system.”
Hand-arm vibrations are often caused by operating:
Workers who sustain injuries related to hand-arm vibrations may experience numbness or tingling, pain, finger discoloration (which can start at the fingertips and spread) and weakened grip. Raynaud's syndrome (also known as vibration white finger) is one specific disorder resulting in permanent disability. This condition happens because of repeated vibration and causes the blood vessels in the fingers to collapse.
An emphasis on prevention
According to Thomas McDowell, program assistant coordinator for the NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division, there is no effective way to treat conditions associated with hand-arm vibrations.
“Once the worker starts exhibiting symptoms, you’ve already gone past the point of no return. 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,” McDowell said.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome can be prevented. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers some tips on how workers can protect their hands and arms:
- Use of damping techniques or vibration isolators
- Ensuring that instruments and equipment are in good working order
- Alternating between vibrating and non-vibrating tools and equipment
- Allowing employees to take frequent breaks for up to 15 minutes each
- Offering safety training and instruction on the dangers of vibrating instruments
- Encouraging employees to keep hands hot and dry, and to grip tools lightly
Injuries related to hand-arm vibration syndrome can be serious enough to require long-term or permanent medical care. If you sustained an injury or serious condition due to the nature of your job, you may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The process, however, can be complex and emotionally taxing.
Let the experienced legal team at O'Malley & Langan Law Offices do the work for you. With offices based in Scranton, Pittson, and Towanda, we help injured Pennsylvania works obtain the compensation they deserve. Contact us online today to get started.