We live in a motorized world. Few would want it any other way. Tasks that took hours or days by muscle power alone take minutes or seconds with the many gas- and electric-powered hand tools.
As with any advancement in technology, efficiencies come at a price. For workers who regularly use any kind of power tools, the price is an increased risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome.
Doctors first identified the condition in 1918 in stonecutters who used air hammers. Back then it was called vibration-induced white finger or Raynaud's phenomenon. Today, it is called hand-arm vibration syndrome. The cause is prolonged use of tools, such as power sanders, power saws, lawnmowers, chain saws, hammer drills or riveters. Basically, any hand tool that shakes can increase your risk.
Symptoms of hand-arm vibration syndrome
While symptoms of hand-arm vibration syndrome may develop over a long period of time, some are easy to spot. They include:
- Tingling and numbness in the fingers and arms
- Fingers swell and turn white in the cold and turn red and ache in warm conditions
- Diminished feeling that leads to a loss of fine motor skills and hand strength
The syndrome can affect blood vessels, nerves and tendons. Not surprisingly, it can lead to significant disability. The hand and finger pain also can affect sleep, which can contribute to even more long-term health problems. In the worst cases, gangrene can develop.
Prevention is crucial
Preventing prolonged exposure is critical. Experts recommend use of vibration-dampening gloves and limiting power tool usage. At the very least, researchers agree tool users and their employers should closely monitor workers' physical conditions and receive care at the earliest sign of trouble.
If you develop symptoms due to your work, know that workers' compensation should pay for any ordered medical treatment. To receive the benefits you deserve, speak with an an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.