What is Vibration White Finger (VWF)?
Vibration white finger (VWF) is a type of industrial injury. It is a secondary form of Raynaud’s syndrome, in which damage is caused to the nerves, muscles and blood vessels of the hand, wrist and arm by excessive exposure to handheld vibrating tools or equipment.
Common symptoms of vibration white finger (VWF) include the following:
- fingers feeling numb – this may be just the tips of the fingers in milder cases, but may affect the whole finger in more serious cases
- fingers change colour – the fingers change to a pale white colour, particularly when exposed to cold temperatures. The fingers can then change to red as blood returns to the fingers, resulting in a “throbbing” sensation
- tingling or pins and needles sensation
- loss of dexterity – it may be difficult to pick up smaller objects such as screws or small coins, or to fasten buttons on clothes
- loss of grip strength.
These symptoms can be intermittent at first, but with increased exposure to vibrating tools over longer periods, the symptoms can appear more frequently, last longer and may even be permanent. Unfortunately, the symptoms of vibration white finger (VWF) are irreversible.
High risk work tools
There are many tools which can cause a person to develop vibration white finger (VWF), but some of the most common include:
- pneumatic drills / jackhammers / concrete breakers
- grinders / disc cutters
- hedge trimmers
- lawn mowers
- brush cutters / garden strimmers
- chipping hammers
It is not always possible to avoid using these sorts of tools in a job, but where it is unavoidable employers have a responsibility to ensure that the use of such tools does not expose an employee or contractor to a significant risk of developing vibration white finger (VWF).
Duty of care
Employers are required to have safe working practices and to ensure that the equipment they provide is safe. Where the use of vibrating tools is unavoidable, an employer should ensure that your overall exposure to vibration does not exceed limits prescribed by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. These limits are calculated by the “force” of the vibrations and the amount of time spent using vibrating tools (known as the “trigger time”). Where the vibrations are mild, the equipment may be used for a longer period, compared to tools that give off powerful vibrations which will require a much shorter period of use.
To comply with these regulations, an employer should try to provide low-vibration tools where possible, and also ensure that the equipment is in a good state of repair, as poorly maintained equipment may vibrate more than it should. Employees and contractors should be encouraged to take regular breaks from using vibrating tools, to keep their hands warm by wearing gloves and move and massage their fingers during break times.
Employers should also provide personal protective equipment, such as anti-vibration gloves, which should in themselves be appropriate for the vibration frequency of the tools to be used.
Is there a time limit to make a VWF claim?
It is important to note that most vibration white finger (VWF) compensation claims should be brought within three years of the date of knowledge. The date of knowledge is generally the date from which you first realised or suspected that your symptoms were related to the vibrating tools you were using, or when it would have been reasonable to make the connection between the symptoms and the tools you were using. This can be a tricky part of vibration white finger (VWF) compensation claims, but a member of our team will happily be able to advise you further on when your “date of knowledge” is likely to have been.
If you or a loved one has suffered as a result of exposure to vibrations at work please speak to our Industrial Injury lawyers, to see if you have a vibration white finger (VWF) compensation claim, by calling Freephone: 0808 164 0808 for a FREE, no-obligation chat. Alternatively, please complete the request a call back form and we will call you.