Although a work injury that occurs at a specific point in time may be easy to document for the workers’ compensation claims process in New York, some conditions can be more difficult to address because of the lack of a specific event. Hand-arm vibration syndrome may be one of the more complex examples of work-related conditions due to the fact that symptoms may not be noticeable until many years after the problem is caused. As many as 2 million U.S. employees in construction and manufacturing may be exposed to such conditions, and 50 percent or more of these may suffer from this neuromuscular disorder.
The most significant contributing factor for HAVS is vibration. Those who use their tools to hold or operate equipment that vibrates for extended periods of time are most at risk for HAVS. Cold air is considered to be another serious factor that can contribute to the condition. Those suffering from HAVS may notice varying degrees of pain and numbness in the hands. They might also notice that their fingers are cold and white at times, especially when exposed to frigid conditions.
Workers who use vibrating tools or equipment may minimize the risk of HAVS by keeping their hands warm while using these tools. They should also try to use a light grip and cover their fingers with appropriate safety gloves. An hourly break of 10 minutes is advisable for extended operation of such equipment. As much as possible, workers should avoid exposing their hands to cold air.
It is the legal responsibility of an employer to mitigate various workplace injury risks, and training may be advisable for unique issues such as HAVS. If an employee notices unusual symptoms such as numb hands, it is advisable to seek a medical evaluation that might be covered by workers’ compensation benefits provided through the employer.