Photo: Ricecracker (Flickr)
Unless you work on a construction or road maintenance crew, chances are you’ve never used a jackhammer. But just watching and hearing a guy jackhammer a hole through concrete is enough to get a sense of how powerful a tool it is. Powerful enough to send massive vibrations up through the worker’s hands, into his arms, and down the length of his entire body.
What Is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome?
What you can’t see, though, is the internal damage that such vibrations can do. Workers who regularly use jackhammers and other large power tools often suffer from what’s known as hand-arm vibration syndrome. It begins with a tingling sensation and numbness in the fingers. Then, when the fingers are cold they turn white and swollen. Warmed up, they become red and painful.
Even worse, the syndrome makes it difficult to pick up small things like pins and nails and can cause a loss of grip
strength exactly the sorts of things that construction workers need on the job. Plus, the pain, numbness, and tingling can interfere with sleep.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent or at least minimize hand-arm vibration syndrome. Wearing special anti vibration gloves can cushion the hand from the worst effects. Workers in Europe are regularly equipped with such gloves, but workers in the United States not so much, because the syndrome hasn’t gotten as much attention here.
American scientists are catching on, though. Some researchers specializing in workplace safety are developing a world standard for anti vibration gloves to benefit power tool users in Europe, America, and around the world.
- Definition of Hand-arm vibration syndrome (MedicineNet)