Working on lift installations and maintenance will require a great deal of manual labour that will elevate the risk of injury to the hands. Handling dangerous tools and working with heavy machinery, as well as carrying out plenty of other tasks leaves hands vulnerable which could result in cuts and lacerations. There is also a risk of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) which might leave you unable to work. In this blog we take a look at HAVS in more detail, as well as how gloves can help provide the necessary hand protection.
What is HAVS?
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is when someone is exposed to vibration by regularly using power tools and machines. An angle grinder is one example of a power tool commonly used by lift engineers, however there are hundreds of power tools that can cause ill-health. Once the damage is done the results are permanent, impacting your ability to work.
Early signs to look out for include tingling and numbness in the fingers which could become permanent if you don’t take any action. You’ll also experience loss of strength and eventually have difficulty picking up small objects. On top of that you will get vibration white finger, where in the cold and wet, the tips of your fingers go white then red and painful on recovery.
How to avoid HAVS?
There are a number of precautions you can take to protect yourself against HAVS, but ultimately it is your employer’s responsibility to protect you. If your job can’t be done without using vibrating tools and machines then make sure you do the following;
- Use low-vibration tools
- Use the right tool to do the job more efficiently, this will mean less exposure to vibrations
- Ensure tools are maintained and repaired to avoid faults that could increase vibration
- Minimise the amount of time you use a tool in one go
- Avoid gripping a tool more than you need to
- Store tools well to avoid them becoming cold
- Encourage good blood circulation by keeping warm and dry, stopping smoking and massaging and exercising your fingers during work breaks.
Choosing the best safety gloves
While safety gloves can help keep hands warm and provide some protection from HAVS, they are ultimately used to carry out specific tasks to protect from cuts and abrasions. Using the correct type of glove is therefore essential for hand safety. When choosing gloves you’ll need to consider the fit, function and level of protection. If you make the wrong decision, it could be just as dangerous as not wearing any gloves at all.
The standard EN 388:2016 is used to rate gloves on their ability to protect against abrasions, blade cuts, tearing, punctures and impact. The values from 0 to 5, with 4/5 being the best protection can be seen next to the pictogram of the glove – which you’ll find on the gloves to help you source the most suitable pair. It is important to choose gloves with the best protection that will allow you to effectively carry out the job you are doing. If you are unsure you are using the right gloves then contact your line manager.