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Man using strimmer

Exposure to Hand-arm Vibration

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into your hands and arms when you use handheld powered work equipment or workpieces which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery.  It can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).  HAVS symptoms can become permanent and disabling and it is therefore important to recognise symptoms at an early stage.  Symptoms of HAVS are separated into two main categories.  Sensory symptoms can include numbness and tingling in the hands, which can result in reduced strength and loss of dexterity.  Vascular symptoms can include well-demarked whiteness to the finders and finding it increasingly difficult to warm up the hands.

Health surveillance for employees who are exposed to hand-arm vibration in their work is a tiered system:

Tier 1 – This is pre-placement or baseline assessment and will require you to complete a questionnaire about any symptoms affecting the hands, arms and upper limbs, any relevant health history, and about your exposure to hand-arm vibration in previous jobs.  As this will be your first such assessment at the University, you will have an appointment with a qualified and suitably trained Occupational Health Adviser (OHA).  The OHA will go through your questionnaire with you, look at your hands and do some basic tests (including grip strength and dexterity tests).  The results and any recommendations will be discussed with you.  The OHA will provide your line-manager with advice on your fitness to work with vibrating tools/equipment and of any identified need for adjustments to your work.  This report will not contain any confidential medical information.  If no problems have been detected, you will be asked to complete a Tier 2 questionnaire in 12 months.  If problems are detected, you will be asked to undertake a more detailed Tier 3 assessment or be referred directly to the Occupational Physician for Tier 3 and 4 assessments (see below).

Tier 2 – This is an annual check that involves completion of a questionnaire, asking about any symptoms since your previous assessment.  You will be asked to return the completed questionnaire to the Occupational Health Service (OH).  If you have reported symptoms, you will be sent an appointment to discuss this with an OHA and for completion of a more detailed assessment.  If you are symptom-free you will be asked to repeat the Tier 2 questionnaire in a further 12 months.  After three years of reporting no symptoms, you will be given an appointment with an OHA for review.  

Tier 3 – This can follow either a Tier 1 or 2 assessment, where symptoms are reported, or in between assessments if you develop symptoms.  Tier 3 involves a closer examination of the hands and a range of non-invasive tests.  This would be undertaken by a qualified and suitably trained OHA or an Occupational Physician (OP) who have undertaken training in HAVS.  The OHA or OP will provide your line-manager with advice on your fitness to work with vibrating tools/equipment and of any identified need for adjustments to your work.  This report will not contain any confidential medical information.

Tier 4 – This would be an assessment and diagnosis by an OP (with training in HAVS).  The OP will discuss with you any recommended adjustments to your work activities and provide your line-manager with advice on your fitness to work with vibrating tools/equipment and of any identified need for adjustments to your work.  This report will not contain any confidential medical information.

If you have any questions about the health surveillance programme, please contact Occupational Health at occupationalhealth@exeter.ac.uk

UoE Health & Safety Standard (Vibration at Work)
Hand Arm Vibration: Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 – Guidance on Regulations
Hand Arm Vibration – A guide for employees