Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

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What is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)


Hand-arm vibration is any vibration transmitted to a user’s hand and arms and is found to be an issue when using hand-held power tools such as drills, power planers, or random orbital sanders.  As these tools are often used for prolonged periods, the outcome can lead to hand arm vibration syndrome or other diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome or vibration white finger. The pain and distress caused by HAVS can dramatically limit a person to complete basic everyday tasks.


Employers’ Responsibility


Under the Control of Vibration of Work Regulations 2005, employers are responsible for assessing and measuring to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to their employees.  For low risk, the resolutions may be simple and inexpensive but for higher risks, an action plan should be used to control and minimise exposure to the risk.

In a recent HSE investigation, Lancashire County Council were found to have not monitored or supervised their operatives sufficiently failing to record their levels of exposure. Although they had health surveillance records, they had not acted upon them promptly to reduce or stop the exposure levels. The council was fined £50,000 and ordered to pay costs of £10,366.78.

If HAVS is reported as a diagnosed disease, it would need to be reported under RIDDOR to the HSE, which requires employers to report any work-related deaths, certain work-related injuries, cases of disease, and near misses involving their employees wherever they are working


Employers’ Role


It is important that a full risk assessment is in place already to cover any activities your employees are involved in to identify any potential risks to their health. In addition to this, it is important that you investigate whether your business requires Health Surveillance to monitor and assess these risks on a regular basis. These ongoing health checks may be required by law for employees who are exposed to noise, vibration, dust, and other substances hazardous to health. The risk assessments a business has in place should be used to identify any need for a health surveillance program and should be used as a substitute for undertaking a risk assessment or using effective controls.

The HSE will continue to monitor how businesses manage, reduce and where possible, eliminate any risks to their employees during inspections.

Useful Links


Hand-arm vibration at work – A brief guide
Hand-arm vibration – A guide for employees
Hand-arm vibration at work – Health and Safety Executive
Vibration exposure monitoring Q&A
HSE Hand-arm vibration exposure calculator
British Woodworking Federation – Health & Safety manual

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