If you regularly use hand-guided or hand-held power tools at your workplace in Minnesota, you could be at risk of developing a condition known as a Vibration White Finger (VWF). There are measures you can take to prevent it from occurring, but once the damage is done, it could result in permanent damage.
Understanding Vibration White Finger
As the name suggests, vibration white finger (also known as dead finger or hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)) is a condition that can develop from the regular exposure of your hands to vibrating tools. The frequent shaking of your hands for a long period of time could inflame or damage your blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints.
Factors that increase your chances of developing this condition include:
• Working with power tools for more than five years
• Using tools that emit high levels of vibration
• Wearing tight gloves, which decrease circulation in your hands or fingers
• Having other health conditions, such as diabetes or Raynaud’s disease
The symptoms include numbness, tingling and pain in the fingers, as well as weakness in the grip. In severe cases, the fingers may turn white or blue, due to poor circulation.
You can prevent HAVS by using vibrating tools for no more than two hours at a time. You also need to take regular breaks during your shifts to give your hands a rest, or time to recover, from the work you have just done. Moreover, it’s important to hold the tool firmly, as a loose grip will increase the amount of vibration your hand is exposed to.
What to do when the damage is done already
If you start feeling tingling or numbing sensations in your hand, it’s important to see a doctor immediately. They will be able to confirm the diagnosis and provide you with the treatment you need. In some cases, surgery may be required to improve blood circulation in the affected fingers.
After getting your treatment, you should follow up with your employer to get your workers’ compensation benefits. All employees in Minnesota are entitled to benefits, like medical expenses and wage replacement, if they develop injuries at work or as a result of their job.
While there is no exact cure for VWF, the symptoms can be managed with treatment, which may require extra funds from the workers’ compensation program.