While carpal tunnel syndrome may be familiar to Minnesota construction workers, hand-arm vibration syndrome may be unknown. Numbness, tingling and pain might cause a worker to seek treatment for carpal tunnel issues. However, this might be an indication of HAVS, one of the most common neuromuscular issues for construction and manufacturing workers. The deciding factor could be the discoloration of one’s fingers, as blanching is a symptom of HAVS.
An early instance of HAVS symptoms being examined occurred in 1918 as a doctor examined 38 quarry workers in Indiana. The majority of these workers reported white fingers in connection with their operation of air hammers. Gangrene is possible but rare with HAVS, and symptoms can take at least six months to show up. In some cases, HAVS symptoms may not show up until six years after an individual’s involvement in at-risk activities.
A construction worker may not be able to avoid working with vibrating power tools such as grinders, riveters and jackhammers. However, it is important to be familiar with the proper use of these tools. Modifying a tool by removing ergonomic features, for example, could increase one’s risk of HAVS. Operating these tools without taking regular breaks could also increase risks. It is advisable to take a break for at least 10 minutes of every hour worked with such tools. Because cold air is a risk factor for HAVS, it is important to wear OSHA-approved gloves and to avoid smoking during work periods.
If a worker begins to notice pain and numbness in the hands during the use of vibrating tools, it may be wise to seek medical advice promptly. Because of the work-related activities at play, workers’ compensation benefits may cover treatment. A diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome could result in a need for surgery. In the case of HAVS, however, there could be irreversible damage. In this case, legal support might be needed for further workers’ compensation claims.