Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)

Hand Arm Vibration Syndroms (HAVS) is the transfer of vibration from a tool or workplace to a worker's hands or arms. The level of hand-arm vibration is determined by measuring the acceleraion of the tool or object grasped by the worker. Hand-arm vibration syndrome is a disease that involves circulatory disturbances, sensory and motor disturbances and musculoskeletal disturbances. While it has been known since the beginning of the 20th century that vibration effects the hands and arms, it was not until 1983 that scientists agreed on a definition of HAVS that includes the circulatory, nervous and musculoskeletal systems.


Employers must establish a health and safety program to remove or reduce workplace hazards. A joint Health and Safety Committee is responsible to identify risks and hazards and make recommendations to the employer on programs, measures and procedures to reduce or remove these hazards.  The following are recommendations the joint health and safety committee can make to their employer

  • Rquest management to provide safe hand tools, and regular maintenance of the tools
  • Measure vibration exposure
  • Get technical advice
  • Get medical advice
  • Warn exposed workers
  • Provide full training to exposed workers
  • Review exposure times and provide adequate rest breaks away from vibrating tools (eg. Reduce exposure hours, decrease the number of days exposed to vibrating tool by job rotation)
  • Have a policy on removal/reduction of vibration from the workplace

Tool Manufactures

  • Measure tool vibration
  • Design tools to minimize vibration
  • Use ergonomic design to reduce grip force, awkward posture, etc.
  • Design tools to keep hands warm (eg. Heated handles, relocate air vents)
  • Provide guidance on tool maintenance
  • Provide warning of dangerous vibration levels

Medical Personnel 

  • Perform routine medical checks of those at risk
  • Record all signs and reported symptoms
  • Warn workers of health risks
  • Advise on what happens because of exposure, and prevention strategies
  • Inform JHSC and Workplace Safety & Insurance Board when appropriate

Advise on how workers can avoid Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) in the workplace

The Joint Health & Safety Committee should establish apreventive and training program for all workers at risk and include the following information:

  • How to recognize symptoms like finger tingling, numbness and finger blanching.
  • The critical need to report any symptoms immediately.
  • The possible serious health effects of overtime, shiftwork and double shifts.
  • Role of proper tool maintenance (poorly dressed grinding wheels or worn bearings can have higher vibration acceleration levels than a new or well main tained tool).
  • The need for immediate reporting of poorly functioning tools.
  • Ergonomic aspects of tool use and the relation to correct body posture.
  • The need to avoid unnecessary vibration exposure, by proper tool handling.
  • The need to wear gloves, particularly anti-vibration (a/v) ones.
  • The need for whole body warmth and especially warm dry hands.
  • The correct design and fit, and use of personal protective equipment.
  • The use of work/rest schedule, job rotation and exercises which can maintain blood circulation.
  • An understanding of vibration exposure levels from tools used. Information on appropriate WSIB claims reporting.

Please follow this link to review OHCOW's full report on Hand-Arm Vibratioin Syndrome an Occupational Disease Prevention Strategy

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