The most common health issues associated with exposure to vibration through the hands and arms are a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and certain specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Typical early symptoms of these conditions include tingling and numbness in the fingers, not being able to feel things properly, loss of strength in the hands and fingers going white and becoming red and painful on recovery.
So what is Dupuytren’s Contracture and why do I need to be aware of it when managing vibration at work?
Dupuytren’s disease is a disorder of the hand involving thickening of fibrous tissue of the palm and finger tendons, in more advanced cases this can lead to fingers becoming permanently bent into the palm, known as “Dupuytren’s contracture”. There are a number of possible causes of this condition, the NHS websites includes diabetes, epilepsy, heavy drinking, smoking and genetics e.g. a family history of the condition.
In 2014 a government review considered links between this condition and work involving hand held vibrating tools. The report recommended found an increase in the prevalence of the condition among people exposed to vibration at work and recommended that the condition was added to the list of diseases which qualify for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB).
IIDB is a benefit that workers can claim if they became ill or are disabled because of an accident or disease either at work or on an approved employment training scheme or course. This scheme covers over 70 diseases including asthma, deafness and vibration white finger.
Coming into effect on 9th December 2019 new legislation adds Dupuytren’s disease to the list of conditions covered by IIDB. In order to qualify for the benefit workers must have used vibrating tools for at least 10 years (either in one period or on aggregate) and within that period the use of those tools must have amounted to at least 2 hours per day for 3 or more days per week; and
the onset of the disease must have fallen within the period (or periods) of use.
So what does this mean for employers?
Where employees are exposed to vibration at work you should already have controls in place to minimise and manage exposure. Equally you should also have controls in place where employees have health conditions that could affect their ability to work safely or could be made worse by work.
While the change in legislation may raise awareness of the condition, the possible link to vibration and therefore potentially increase claims for historic exposure to vibration this does not alter your ongoing management responsibilities.
You can find more about the condition on the NHS website at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dupuytrens-contracture/
Information about Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit can be found on the Gov.UK website at: https://www.gov.uk/industrial-injuries-disablement-benefit
Please speak to your normal PIB Risk management contact or get in touch using firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about managing exposure to vibration at work or would like to arrange a vibration assessment for your workplace.