If your job requires you to operate a jackhammer, drill, or electric saw, the quivering sensation you get through your hands and arms may not seem like that big of a deal. The prolonged use of power tools can lead to serious long-term health conditions, however, some of which can be irreversible.
What injuries can be caused by power tools?
According to an article in Safety + Health Magazine, a publication of the National Safety Council, millions of workers are affected by hand-arm vibration injuries caused by power tools. Those who work in construction, maintenance, mining, forestry, transportation, agriculture, and automotive are the most at risk.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) describes hand-arm vibration injuries as “a collective term for vibration-induced neurological, vascular and musculoskeletal disorders in the hand-arm system.”
If you notice any of the following symptoms, you may have sustained a hand-arm vibration injury:
- A tingling sensation in the hands, fingers, or limbs
- Loss of grip strength
- Finger discoloration
One of the most common (and most serious) hand-arm vibration injuries associated with the use of power tools is "vibration white finger" (also known as Raynaud's syndrome). When workers sustain this injury, the blood vessels in the fingers gradually collapse and are blocked from reaching the surface of the skin — causing the fingers to turn white. As a result, workers may experience numbness or pain in the fingers.
Those who work in cold temperatures or operate power tools for more than 15 minutes per day are the most at risk of developing vibration white finger. Unfortunately, there is no known way to cure this condition, according to Thomas McDowell, program assistant coordinator for NIOSH Health Effects Laboratory Division.
"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,” said McDowell.
How can hand-arm vibration injuries be prevented?
In order to prevent vibration white finger, workers and employers must first become aware of the risks of prolonged use of power tools. The preventative measures must then be implemented:
- Making sure tools are in properly-working order
- Making sure tools are kept warm, especially during the winter months
- Using only tools with low-vibration settings
- Wearing gloves that protect against vibrations
- Limiting the amount of time workers use power tools on a daily basis
If you are beginning to notice signs of vibration white finger or any other hand-arm vibration symptoms, it's important that you inform your employer and get immediate medical attention. Your condition may be serious enough to require time away from work and long-term or permanent medical care. That's why you should discuss this matter with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help you explore your legal options.
The attorneys at Kotlar, Hernandez & Cohen, LLC know how the workers' compensation system works and how to maximize your chances of receiving benefits. We serve injured workers in greater Cherry Hill, New Jersey. To learn more, contact us online and set up your free consultation.