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HAVS could cause temporary disability

Employees in various industries in California work with equipment that could be damaging to their health in the long run. Frequent use of hand-held tools that produce vibrations could lead to temporary disability if protection is not in place. Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is also known as vibration white finger disease, due to the most visible symptom of the disorder.

Hand-held power tools that produce enough vibration to cause harm include chainsaws, powered hammers, sanders, chisels, riveters, grinders, shapers and sharpeners. Also compactors, breakers and jackhammers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the vibration to which workers are exposed cause peripheral neural and peripheral vascular disorders that affect the hands and fingers of affected workers. Reportedly, there is no effective treatment -- making prevention crucial.

However, if exposure to vibration is limited or eliminated when early symptoms become evident, the effects of HAVS could be reversed. HAVS is a progressive disorder that could develop over months or even years. It is vital for action to be taken at the first signs of tingling and numbness in the hands and arms because vibrations damage the veins. If left untreated, the syndrome could develop into necrosis of the fingers, which involves the death of cells due to the insufficient blood supply. A worker could even lose effective function of his or her hands.

California operators of hand-held power tools should not hesitate to report the early symptoms of HAVS. Early limitations to vibration exposure might lead to temporary disability, which is indeed preferable to permanent disability if the signs are ignored. Some victims of work-related injury or illness avoid seeking medical care because of the high cost of such services. However, most workers are eligible for workers' compensation benefits, and an attorney with experience in dealing with benefits claims can help injured workers to get compensation for medical expenses and lost wages.

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