Hand, arm vibration syndrome screening (HAVS)

Hand, arm vibration syndrome screening (HAVS)


HAVS screening is for employees using handheld or hand guided vibrating tools. The need for the assessment is decided following an assessment of the task by the manager or health and safety adviser.

The employee will be asked to complete a questionnaire, guided by the occupational health clinician, which covers details of any symptoms they have which might be related to HAVS and other factors which might affect the risk of developing the condition.

A simple approach to health surveillance involves working through a number of stages. This is a tiered system as follows:

Tier 1 is a short questionnaire used as a first check for people moving into jobs involving exposure to vibration. The replies to the questionnaire will indicate whether you need to be referred to Tier 3.

Tier 2 is a short questionnaire that you will be asked to complete once a year if your job involves exposure to vibration. The replies to the questionnaire will indicate whether you need to be referred to Tier 3.

Tier 3 involves a HAVS Assessment by a qualified person e.g. occupational health adviser. If the assessment indicates that you may have HAVS you will be referred to Tier 4.

Tier 4 involves a formal diagnosis and is carried out by a doctor qualified in occupational health assessment. This will include a physical examination, finger dexterity, grip strength, sensory, nerve and vascular testing. A formal diagnosis will indicate the extent of the condition by “staging” under the Stockholm Workshop

Scale of O to 3. It is at this stage, depending on the diagnosis and staging that reporting under the RlDDOR 1995 regulations will be recommended. A “Fitness for Work” recommendation will be made.

Tier 5 is optional and involves referral for certain tests for HAVS and may help the doctor assess fitness for work.

Effects of vibration

Depending on the work situation, vibration can be whole body vibration or more commonly hand-arm vibration.

The first signs of a problem may only be tingling in the affected fingers. Exposure to vibration can lead to irritation, fatigue and loss of concentration.

These effects can affect your attention to safety and therefore increase the likelihood of an accident occurring. ln the long term, damage may occur to blood vessels, nerves, muscles, tendons and body organs.

Excessive hand-arm vibration can lead to Vibration White Finger resulting in damaged blood vessels, circulatory problems, pain and in extreme cases gangrene.

Sources of vibration

  • Prolonged use of rotating hand tools used for cutting or grinding
  • Percussive hand tools used for riveting, chipping, hammering, drilling, etc
  • The use of chainsaws