Vibration White Finger (VWF), or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), is a medical condition of the hand caused by using vibrating tools or machinery. It was previously only called VWF because it was thought that only the fingers were affected, but now HAVS is related to the condition because vibrating tools can affect the hands and arms as well.
Vibration white finger often develops as a result of using tools or machinery that vibrates consistently, such as in construction and industrial jobs. Tools might include hammers, grinders, chain saws, drills, and sanders.
VWF is considered a repetitive stress injury that is caused by the blood vessels in the fingers going into spasms frequently. This causes the blood supply in the fingertips to restrict, which can cause the fingers to turn white.
What is the Cause of Vibration White Finger?
The primary cause of vibration white finger is the use of vibrating tools, but not just anyone using these tools. As a repetitive motion injury, this person must be using the tools frequently and consistently over a long period of time. It is also more likely when someone has other minor injuries over the course of using vibrating tools or machinery, that they can accumulate and lead to vibration white finger. Therefore, preventing VWF can be done by reducing the use of these tools, wearing anti-vibration gloves, and repairing tools that might be vibrating more than they should.
What Are the Symptoms of VWF?
There are a variety of symptoms associated with vibrating injuries, but only a few that are particularly due to the VWF condition. This includes having numbness and tingling in the fingertips, a cold sensation in the fingers, discoloration of the skin of the fingers, and of course skin on the fingers that turns white. You may also experience other side effects with this condition or HAVS, including aches and pains in the fingers, hands and arms.
What Workers Are Most at Risk?
Many workers will use a drill or vibrating machine in a warehouse on occasion, and they are not particularly at risk for developing vibration white finger. However, other workers and industries are prone to these types of injuries. Industries that see the most VWF cases include mining, construction, agriculture and engineering. Tools and equipment like strimmers, chainsaws, grinders, polishers, power drills, and road breakers tend to cause the most vibration. Drivers can also be affected if the fleet has a lot of vibration.
Are There Any Treatment Options?
Treating vibration white finger is about returning proper circulation to the fingers and hands, and may require you to stop using vibrating tools and equipment for a while. Some medications can provide treatment as well. Doctors like to encourage good overall health for help treating and preventing VWF, including quitting smoking and caffeine, eating healthy, getting enough exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
Not only should you be sure to help your workers prevent VWF, but make sure you have a workers’ compensation insurance policy for every employee in the case an employee develops vibration white finger or suffers another injury or illness related to their job.