Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a type of industrial injury caused by using vibrating tools and machinery at work. Generally, the condition develops over many years and affects the blood vessels, nerves and musculoskeletal system of the hands and arms.
HAVS symptoms include fingers feeling numb, tingling, loss of dexterity and weakened grip strength. These may severely affect your quality of life and your ability to work and carry out daily activities that require precision and coordination.
If you have developed any symptoms of the condition due to negligence by your employer, you might be eligible to start a HAVS claim. Compensation will cover the pain and suffering caused by the injury, as well as any related financial losses.
What is Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome?
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a condition caused by prolonged exposure to vibrating tools and machinery. It primarily affects the blood vessels, nerves, and muscles of the hands and arms. It typically occurs in occupations where people regularly use hand-held vibrating tools, such as construction workers, miners, and assembly line workers.
The constant exposure to vibration can cause damage to the blood vessels, leading to restricted blood flow and oxygen supply to the affected areas. That can result in various symptoms, including numbness, tingling, and pain in the hands and fingers. Over time, HAVS can also lead to loss of grip strength and finesse, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks.
The severity of HAVS can vary from mild to severe, and in some cases, it can be permanent. The condition is preventable by implementing proper safety measures, such as using anti-vibration tools and protective equipment and taking regular breaks.
If you suspect you have HAVS or are experiencing symptoms related to hand-arm vibration, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible. An accurate diagnosis and appropriate management of the condition are crucial to keep it from worsening. You should also seek legal advice, as you might be able to start a HAVS claim due to a lack of health and safety measures in the workplace.
What are the symptoms of HAVS?
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome can cause various symptoms that primarily affect the hands and arms, which develop gradually over time with prolonged exposure to vibrating tools or machinery. Here are some common symptoms associated with HAVS:
- Fingers feeling numb
- A tingling or pins and needles sensation in the fingers and hands
- Loss of feeling or reduced sensitivity to touch
- Cold sensitivity in the affected fingers
- Pain or throbbing sensation in the hands or arms
- Reduced dexterity and coordination
- Difficulty picking up small objects
- Weakened grip strength
- Night time awakening with painful hands and fingers
- Difficulty performing fine motor tasks, such as buttoning clothes or writing
- Changes in skin colour or texture, such as blanching, redness, or a waxy appearance
- Fingers turning white or blue, particularly when exposed to cold or in response to stress
The symptoms of hand arm vibration can vary from person to person, and their severity can depend on factors such as the duration and intensity of vibration exposure. These will play a crucial role in determining the compensation awarded in Hand Arm Vibration claims.
HAVS diagnosis and treatment
The diagnosis of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is typically based on a combination of medical history, symptoms, and a thorough examination conducted by a healthcare professional. They will ask you questions about your vibration exposure history, assess the symptoms you are experiencing, and carry out specific tests to evaluate your hand function, grip strength, and sensory perception.
As with other industrial diseases, such as vibration white finger, it is crucial to manage HAVS early to prevent further progression and alleviate symptoms. The specific treatment approach may vary based on the severity of the condition and individual circumstances. Any damage that already occurred is generally irreversible, which is why prevention is essential. Some common strategies and interventions for HAVS include:
- Vibration exposure reduction: Minimising or eliminating exposure to vibrating tools is crucial to prevent further damage. That may involve using alternative work methods, equipment modifications, or job rotation to reduce exposure times.
- Symptom management: You may receive medication to alleviate pain, improve blood circulation, or manage specific symptoms. Physical therapy exercises and techniques may also be recommended to improve hand function, strength, and dexterity.
- Hand protection: Wearing appropriate protective equipment, such as anti-vibration gloves, can help reduce the impact of vibration on the hands.
- Lifestyle adjustments: Making certain lifestyle changes, such as avoiding cold temperatures, quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, can contribute to overall symptom management.
If you were diagnosed with HAVS because your employer failed to take all reasonable measures to protect your health and well-being at work, you could be entitled to claim HAVS compensation.
Am I eligible to make a HAVS claim?
If you have been diagnosed with Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, your right to seek compensation will depend on various factors. To determine your eligibility to make a claim, you should consult with a personal injury lawyer specialising in industrial accident claims.
In general, the following criteria are considered in Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome claims:
- Diagnosis: You must have a confirmed diagnosis of HAVS from a qualified medical professional. That usually involves medical examinations, tests, and assessments to establish the presence and severity of the condition.
- Causation: It must be demonstrated that your HAVS is a direct result of prolonged exposure to vibrating tools or machinery used in your workplace. You may help by providing evidence of your job responsibilities, duration of exposure, and the specific tools or equipment used.
- Negligence: Your solicitor will need to establish that your employer had a duty of care to protect you from the risks associated with vibrating machinery and has failed to fulfil that duty. They must show that appropriate safety measures, such as risk assessments, personal protective equipment, or training, were not implemented or were insufficient.
- Time limits: There are usually time limits for making Hand Arm Vibration claims, so it is essential to initiate the process within the specified time frame. The time limit is usually three years from the date of diagnosis but may vary in certain circumstances, so you should seek legal advice promptly.
To determine your eligibility and the potential for claiming HAVS compensation, call 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation with a legal adviser today. Alternatively, you can fill in our online claim form to request a call back.
Evidence needed to support Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome claims
When making a HAVS claim, gathering clear evidence is crucial to your case. The specific proof required may vary depending on your circumstances, but some common types of evidence that can be helpful include:
- Medical records: You will need medical records documenting your diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing medical care if you want to seek HAVS compensation. These may include medical reports from qualified healthcare professionals, test results, imaging studies, and any relevant specialist referrals.
- Occupational history: Providing detailed information about your work history, including the duration and nature of your exposure to vibrating tools and machinery and the specific tasks performed, can help establish a causal link between your work activities and the development of HAVS.
- Witness statements: If your colleagues, supervisors, or other individuals observed your work conditions and can testify to the vibration exposure and lack of preventive measures, their witness statements can help strengthen your claim.
- Work documentation: Documents related to your employment, such as contracts, job descriptions, training records, risk assessments, safety protocols, and maintenance logs for equipment, can support your claim by demonstrating your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment.
- Expert reports: Expert opinions from medical professionals specialising in HAVS, occupational health experts, or vibration exposure specialists can provide an objective evaluation of your condition and its causation. Their reports can help establish the link between your symptoms and vibration exposure at work.
- Your statement: You may need to provide details about the type of work you did, the equipment you used at your job and your working schedule. Additionally, you should keep notes about the symptoms you have experienced and how your condition has affected your daily life.
- Correspondence: If you raised concerns with your employer regarding your working conditions, copies of any letters or emails you exchanged could be used as evidence in your claim for vibration syndrome compensation.
- Financial losses: Keep records of the monetary losses incurred due to your HAVS, such as medical expenses, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, and other related expenses. These records can be used to calculate the compensation you may be entitled to.
It is essential to consult with a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling HAVS claims as soon as possible if you believe you have developed the condition due to your employer’s negligence. They can guide you on the specific evidence needed in HAVS compensation claims and help you gather the necessary documentation to support your case effectively.
Employer duty of care to prevent HAVS at work
In the UK, several legislations impose a duty of care on employers to prevent HAVS at work, including:
- The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
- The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
- The Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
- The Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992
This legislation imposes general duties on employers to ensure that the health, safety, and welfare of their employees are protected while at work. Here are some key provisions:
- Conduct regular risk assessments to identify and assess potential hazards in the workplace. This includes identifying risks related to machinery, equipment, or working conditions, such as vibration levels, duration of exposure, and workplace temperature;
- Implement adequate control measures to reduce and manage the risks associated with vibrating tools. That may include selecting suitable low-vibration tools, providing regular maintenance and inspections, and implementing engineering controls to minimise exposure;
- Provide employees with information and training on the risks associated with hand-arm vibration, the measures in place to control exposure, and the proper use of vibrating tools and equipment. This ensures that employees are aware of the risks and know how to protect themselves;
- Ensure that employees receive adequate training and instruction to perform their work safely, which includes providing training on safe work practices and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as anti-vibration gloves;
- Keep a safe working environment by regularly inspecting and maintaining equipment and addressing any hazards or risks promptly;
- Encourage and engage in consultation with employees regarding health and safety matters. Employees should have the opportunity to provide input, raise concerns, and participate in decisions that affect their health and safety;
- Establish a health surveillance program for employees at risk of developing HAVS. This program involves regular health assessments to detect early signs of the condition and provide appropriate support and guidance;
- Maintain records of risk assessments, exposure levels, control measures, and health surveillance activities. These records help demonstrate compliance with the regulations and enable monitoring and review of the effectiveness of control measures.
Failure to comply with the laws regarding the use of vibrating tools and machinery in the UK could make employers liable for compensation in Hand Arm Vibration claims.
Tools that can cause Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome can be due to prolonged and regular use of hand-held power tools and equipment that produce vibrations. Some common tools and equipment that can cause you to develop hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) include:
- Power drills
- Impact wrenches
- Concrete breakers
- Pneumatic drills
- Hedge trimmers
- Lawn mowers
- Floor scrubbing and cleaning tools
These tools generate vibrations that are transmitted to the hands and arms of the user, potentially causing damage to the blood vessels, nerves, and musculoskeletal system over time. Employers and workers need to be aware of the risks associated with these tools and implement appropriate measures to prevent or minimise exposure to excessive vibrations.
What occupations are at risk of HAVS?
Several occupations and industries are at a higher risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome due to the nature of their work. Here are some examples:
- Construction workers: Those using vibrating power tools such as jackhammers, concrete breakers, chainsaws, and drills are at significant risk of developing HAVS.
- Manufacturing and industrial workers: Occupations involving the operation of vibrating equipment, such as grinders, sanders, pneumatic tools, and impact wrenches, put individuals at risk of developing the condition.
- Road workers: Individuals involved in road construction, maintenance, and repair, who use vibrating equipment like pavement breakers and compactors, are susceptible to HAVS.
- Mining and quarry workers: Jobs that involve the use of heavy machinery and vibrating tools in mining and quarrying operations can expose workers to the harmful effects of vibrations.
- Gardening and landscaping: Frequent use of vibrating tools like hedge trimmers, chainsaws, and weed trimmers can pose a risk to individuals in these occupations.
- Shipbuilding and dockyard workers: Jobs involving vibrating tools and machinery for shipbuilding, maintenance, and repair can expose workers to hand-arm vibrations.
- Vehicle mechanics: Workers involved in automotive repair and maintenance may experience Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome from using power tools like impact wrenches and air chisels.
- Carpentry workers: Frequent use of tools like power saws, routers, and sanders in woodworking occupations can contribute to the risk of HAVS.
- Foundry and metalwork trades: Occupations involving the use of equipment for metalwork processes, such as cutting, grinding, and polishing, can increase the risk of developing the condition.
While these occupations carry a higher risk of HAVS, it does not mean that individuals in other professions are exempt. Any work that involves regular and prolonged use of vibrating tools or equipment can potentially lead to HAVS compensation claims if no appropriate preventive measures are in place.
Could I be sacked for making a HAVS claim?
In the UK, it is illegal for your employer to dismiss or treat you unfairly due to making a personal injury claim. It is considered an act of discrimination or retaliation to sack or mistreat an employee for exercising their legal right to claim injury compensation, and the law protects employees against such unfair treatment.
Under the Employment Rights Act 1996, if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed or subjected to poor treatment due to making a HAVS claim against your employer, you may have grounds for an unfair dismissal or constructive dismissal claim.
If you believe you received unfair treatment from your employer, you should consult with a personal injury solicitor to fully understand your rights and options in such circumstances. They can provide you with specific guidance based on your situation and help you navigate any potential legal issues. For a free consultation, call 0800 678 1410 or enter your details into our online claim form to receive a call back.
HAVS compensation claims time limits
The time limit to start a personal injury claim is usually three years from the date of an accident or the date of knowledge of an injury. This time limit is set by the Limitation Act 1980, according to which you may lose your right to compensation if you do not start legal proceedings within the allotted timeframe.
In Hand Arm Vibration claims and other occupational diseases where the symptoms may develop gradually over time, the three-year time limit usually starts from the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge is when you became aware or should have reasonably become aware that your condition was due to your work activities.
There are a few exceptions to the three-year limitation date to start a HAVS claim:
- If you were under 18 at the time of diagnosis, the time does not start to run until you reach the age of 18. Afterwards, you will have until your 21st birthday to seek compensation.
- If you developed HAVS while working abroad for a foreign company, the time limit to start legal proceedings might depend on the country’s laws and be much shorter than three years.
- If the injured person cannot claim by themselves, the time limit is suspended indefinitely. Under the Mental Capacity Act 2005, a litigation friend could start a claim at any time on behalf of someone who suffers from:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- A brain injury or stroke
- A mental health illness such as severe depression
- An intellectual disability like Down syndrome
- A neurodegenerative condition like dementia
It is advisable to seek legal advice as soon as possible to understand your specific situation and ensure you take the necessary steps within the time limits. That will also make it easier to collect and collate evidence to support your case and secure HAVS compensation.
How much HAVS compensation could I receive?
How much compensation awarded in Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome claims depends on various factors, including the severity of the condition, the impact it has had on your life and the associated financial losses and expenses. Typically, HAVS compensation payouts consist of two main components: general damages and special damages.
General damages refer to compensation awarded for the actual physical injury. The amount is determined based on the severity of your condition and its impact on your daily life, including any limitations or disabilities it has caused, and can take into account:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional and psychological distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of ability to engage in hobbies and other activities you previously enjoyed
- Loss of consortium, if HAVS has affected your relationships
Special damages cover the financial losses and expenses you have incurred as a result of the condition and may include:
- Medical expenses like treatments, consultations, medications, rehabilitation, and any other healthcare-related costs directly associated with managing HAVS;
- Compensation for the income you have lost due to time off work or reduced working hours, which includes both past and future loss of earnings;
- The costs of travel to and from medical appointments, therapy sessions, or any other necessary trips related to your HAVS treatment;
- Specialised equipment, tools, or adaptations to assist with daily activities or work tasks;
- The cost of additional help or support with daily tasks and activities due to the limitations caused by your injury.
These are just a few examples of special damages that can be included in a claim for hand arm vibration syndrome compensation. The specific amount of compensation you will receive depends on the evidence you can produce of related costs, such as receipts, invoices and wage slips. The compensation for general damages is usually awarded based on previous similar cases and the following guidelines offered by the Judicial College:
- Between £2,990 and £8,640 for minor symptoms that affect just a few fingers and have a minimal impact on your life
- Between £8,640 and £16,760 for moderate symptoms that cause discomfort and show clear signs of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome in cold weather;
- Between £16,760 and £31,640 for severe HAVS that has impacted your work and private life, causing regular bouts of discomfort;
- Between £31,640 and £38,430 for the most severe cases, often associated with younger sufferers.
Each HAVS claim is unique, and the compensation awarded will reflect the level of suffering you endured. Your solicitor will consider all the losses you suffered due to your condition and will make sure you receive the maximum settlement possible.
No Win No Fee Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome claims
No Win No Fee, also known as a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA), is a common funding arrangement for Hand Arm Vibration claims. Under a CFA, you can seek damages without having to pay any upfront legal fees. If your case is successful and you receive compensation, your solicitor will be entitled to a pre-agreed percentage of your award as their fee. That is known as a success fee and cannot exceed 25% of your settlement.
However, if your claim is unsuccessful, you will not be required to pay a single penny to your solicitor. This allows individuals with valid HAVS compensation claims to access legal representation and pursue their case without worrying about the financial burden. It provides an opportunity for those who may not have the means to pay for legal fees upfront to still have access to justice and seek the compensation they deserve.
Under a No Win No Fee agreement, your solicitor will also make sure you will not have to pay any legal fees incurred during the claims process if your case is unsuccessful, such as:
- The defendant’s solicitor fees
- Costs of printing and copying
- Medical reports
- Expert witness fees
- Associated travel expenses
- Court fees
- Barrister fees if your case goes to court
If you win the claim, the other side will have to pay most of your legal costs. If the case fails, these expenses will be covered by the After the Event (ATE) insurance policy that your solicitor will take out for you from the beginning.
If you believe you have a valid claim for HAVS compensation, call 0800 678 1410 or use our online claim form to speak to a legal adviser today. They will offer you a free case assessment and answer any questions you might have.