Jacqui McLaughlin, CEO, Reactec

Industry View from

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome: the hidden risk to our workforce

The HSE estimates that two million people in the UK are at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, or HAVS, by using power tools in their work – such as grounds or buildings maintenance.

 

There is no cure, and the impacts are life-changing – sufferers find it difficult to undertake simple tasks such as pulling up a zip, holding a glass or playing with their children. Many are also forced to change career. The disease also impacts businesses – HSE fines and personal liability claims are growing.

 

But facilities managers undertake regular risk assessments and apply controls to reduce the risk – it’s top of the agenda as part of their role. However, even if we think we are compliant, data shows that this approach to managing the risk is simply not addressing the problem well enough.

 

HAVs remains the highest reported work injury. 10 per cent of workers who work at what is known as the Exposure Action Value will develop Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome within 12 years. And despite the introduction of the legislation in 2005, there has been no significant reduction in new cases. Given that the risk of developing HAVS goes largely unseen as it takes time to develop, it is an invisible risk.

 

Traditional methods of assessing HAV risk use static vibration magnitude data, often based on manufacturers’ declarations, or from a measurement at a single point in time. Crucially, this data does not account for actual tool use and can result in underestimation of an individual’s exposure by up to 76 per cent. We might not be accounting for what the tool is being used for, its condition, how it is shared or the skill of the worker. One individual’s exposure risk can be much higher than another’s.

 

A good understanding of the time of not only exposure to vibration but also the vibration magnitude from the tool while in use is required to understand an individual’s HAVS risk.

 

With 90,000 grounds maintenance workers and some 2.7 million employed in construction-related industries, many maintaining sites under the control of facilities managers, this is a pressing problem. So what should an FM, who rightly puts the safety and wellbeing of colleagues first, do?

 

The answer lies in deploying wearable technology to determine and report on individual risk. Leading provider Reactec has developed HAVwear – a watch much like those many of us wear daily to measure other aspects of our health and wellbeing – which does just that.

 

HAVwear is unique as it provides two assessments of the risk from hand-arm vibration exposure. HAVwear acts like a trigger timer and therefore can meet all legislative requirements and the latest guidance from the HSE on monitoring; it is also a real-time, real-use assessment of the Hand-Arm Vibration exposure risk faced by the individual. This additional insight allows FMs to manage down the risk more effectively.

 

HAVwear is a practical, wearable and personal monitor which has been specifically designed to help protect organisations commercially, but most importantly protect the long-term health of their employees from this hidden disease.

 

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