Jackhammer syndrome, also known as “hand-arm vibration syndrome” or “HAVS,” is caused by continuous use of vibrating hand-held power tools. Some symptoms of jackhammer syndrome include tingling and numbness in the arms and fingertips. Severe cases can lead to gangrene, requiring amputation of the affected limb or limbs. Individuals who use power tools on-the-job and suffer from jackhammer syndrome may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Jackhammer syndrome is a progressive health condition. Early symptoms can be intermittent and hard to identify as a serious problem. Common early signs of HAVS include a chilly sensation or numbness in the fingertips, and tingling or throbbing pain in the fingers. If these symptoms are ignored, chronic continuous exposure to vibrating hand-held tools can lead to permanent numbness and loss of dexterity. Sometimes, people develop a secondary medical condition where the fingers turn white in color. This is a very serious and irreversible condition known as “vibration white finger,” or “VWF.” Those who suffer from VWF often require amputation of the limbs or fingers.
Who Is at Risk for HAVS?
Although anyone who uses vibrating power tools for long periods of time daily is at risk, some industries have statistically more workers affected by HAVS. These include:
- Maintenance workers
- Forestry/Log cutting
Those who use certain tools are also prone to developing HAVS. These tools include:
- Chain saws
- Impact drills
- Dental tools
- Pavement breakers
- Air-powered wrenches
Employees who work in cold, damp environments and those who use tobacco are at an increased risk. Because tobacco constricts blood vessels, blood flow to the fingertips is reduced, increasing a person’s risk for developing HAVS. Also, improperly maintained tools can cause vibration levels to be much higher than tools that have been properly taken care of. The higher levels of vibration can put users at increased risk.
How to Prevent Jackhammer Syndrome
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates worker health and safety, however OSHA does not have specified standards of vibration that are safe for users of handheld tools. OSHA maintains that this is because vibrations are difficult to measure, particularly because they can vary so much from tool to tool. Tool suppliers are required to disclose vibration data in other countries so that the information is available online. Do your research prior to purchasing or using a tool, ensuring that your tool meets or exceeds standards of acceptability set in other countries.
In addition, employees should limit exposure by taking quarter hour breaks every hour, alternate between use of vibrating and non-vibrating tools, keep hands warm and dry, wear gloves if it is cold, and use vibration isolators and dampers whenever possible.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Employees with Repetitive Motion Injuries
Jackhammer syndrome is irreversible. Affected employees may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits, including medical expenses, lost wages, and more. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A., call us at 803-929-3600 or contact us online. With offices across South Carolina, we represent injured workers in Columbia, Alken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the state.