Those who work in construction, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and mining often rely on power tools to perform daily job functions. Common power tools include (but are not limited to) jackhammers, drills, electric-powered saws, and grinders.
Seasoned workers have spent years honing their skills with these essential pieces of machinery, but little attention has been paid to the potential hazards associated with the vibrations they emit. Long-term hand-arm vibration injuries may impact millions of workers.
What are the risks of prolonged use?
The damage caused by exposure to power tool vibrations may not be noticeable for years and injury symptoms may only appear gradually. According to the National Safety Council, these include:
- Tingling or numbness in the hands, fingers, and limbs
- Hand pain
- Weakened grip
- Finger discoloration
The most common hand-arm vibration injury is called Raynaud's syndrome (a secondary form also known as "vibration white finger), a condition that causes the blood vessels to constrict — preventing blood from reaching the surface of the skin. As a result, the fingertips may turn white. Other symptoms of Raynaud's syndrome include finger numbness, increased finger pain, and loss of finger strength.
How can Raynaud's syndrome be prevented?
Workers who use power tools for more than 15 minutes per day are at risk of developing this condition over time — especially when working in cold temperatures. There is currently no known cure, as this condition can only be prevented by doing the following:
- Keeping tools and work environment warm
- Using tools with low-vibration settings
- Wearing anti-vibration gloves
- Avoiding prolonged use of power tools
“Once the worker starts exhibiting symptoms," said Thomas McDowell, program assistant coordinator for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Effects Laboratory Division. "You’ve already gone past the point of no return. If employers can become aware of the disease and its development, then they can be cognizant of providing warm and dry work environments and seeing about eliminating the need for workers to operate a handheld power tool in the first place.”
If you begin to notice any signs of hand-arm vibration damage, take it seriously from the start. Reporting the symptoms to your employer and getting an immediate medical evaluation is a great start. Treating long-term vibration injuries may require time away from work and even permanent care.
That's why you should discuss this matter with an experienced San Diego workers' compensation attorney who can help you receive benefits while you're unable to work. Contact McLaughlin & Sanchez today and schedule your free case review.