Surrey Occupational Health: Hand and Arm Vibration Syndrome
Hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools and is the cause of significant ill health
(painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints).
- HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent
- HAVS is serious and disabling, and nearly 2 million people are at risk
- Damage from HAVS can include the inability to do fine work and cold can trigger painful finger blanching attacks
You must provide health surveillance for all your employees who, despite your action to control the risk, are likely
to be regularly exposed above the Exposure Action Value or are considered to be at risk for any other reason.
The purpose of health surveillance is to:
- Identify anyone exposed or about to be exposed to hand-arm vibration who may be at particular risk, for example
people with blood circulatory diseases such as Raynaud’s Disease
- Identify any vibration-related disease at an early stage in employees regularly exposed to hand-arm vibration
- Help you prevent disease progression and eventual disability
- Help people stay in work
- Check the effectiveness of your vibration control measures
You should consult with your trade union safety representative, or employee representative, and the employees
concerned before introducing health surveillance. It is important that your employees understand that the aim
of health surveillance is to protect them from developing advanced symptoms of ill health so that they can continue to
work. You will need their understanding and co-operation if health surveillance is to be effective.
How can I arrange health surveillance?
Basic health surveillance consists of regularly seeking information about early symptoms of ill health by using a
questionnaire. It may help you keep costs down if you carry out this function yourself, referring any positive
responses to an occupational health service provider.
Alternatively, you could ask an occupational health service provider to provide a complete service on your behalf.
You should be able to find details of occupational health service providers from your trade association, your local
telephone directory, the internet or your nearest HSE office.
What should I expect from an occupational health service provider?
A suitable occupational health service provider will have training and experience in health surveillance for
They should be able to:
- Advise you on a suitable health surveillance programme for your employees
- Set up the programme
- Provide the necessary training and supervision for your staff if they are going to help with the
basic health surveillance
- Provide suitably qualified and experienced staff to carry out the higher level health surveillance
- Provide you with reports on your employees' fitness to continue work with vibration exposure
What do I have to do with the results of health surveillance?
You will need to:
- Keep records of the health surveillance and fitness for work advice provided for each employee (but not the
confidential medical records which are kept by the doctor). Your health and safety inspector is entitled to ask
to see the health records as part of their checks that you are complying with these Regulations
- Make employees’ records available to them
- Act upon any recommendations made by the doctor about employees’ continued exposure to vibration
- Use the results to review and, if necessary, revise your risk assessment, including your plans to control risks
- Discuss any changes to your risk assessment with your trade union safety representative or employee representative
- Notify the relevant enforcing authority when advised in writing by a doctor that an employee in listed occupations has
HAVS or carpal tunnel syndrome, as required by the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences
Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). For more information on RIDDOR see HSE's leaflet HSE31