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The dangers of unsafe vibration levels in the workplace

Construction workers in California who use hand-held power tools can be exposed to dangerous levels of vibration. Depending on the type of vibration, workers can suffer from various injuries that may include carpal tunnel syndrome and lower back pain. In severe cases, repeated exposure to vibration could eventually result in affected workers having their fingertips amputated.

Vibration hazards in the workplace are classified as either hand-arm vibration or whole-body vibration. In addition to carpal tunnel syndrome, hand-arm vibration can cause other hand and finger injuries that could result in a worker losing sensation, dexterity and grip. Whole-body vibration is one of the leading causes of lost workdays because it can cause a worker to suffer from severe lower back injuries. Some of the tools that are commonly associated with vibration injuries include grinders, sanders, impact drills and some construction vehicles.

Exposure to the repetitive mechanical motion of hand-held power tools can decrease blood flow and disrupt the vascular system's ability to distribute oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. After repeated exposure to unsafe vibration levels, the cells and tissues in a worker's hands and fingers begin to die off. The first cells to be killed are usually the nerve cells in a worker's fingers that allow them to feel and grip objects.

A worker may begin to notice the effects of vibration injuries gradually after a long period of repeated exposure to unsafe vibration levels. When the injuries become apparent, a worker might want to speak with an attorney about filing a workers' compensation claim. An injured worker may be able to recover reimbursement for medical costs and lost wages through workers' compensation benefits.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "Vibration Hazards in the Workplace: The Basics of Risk Assessment", Rob Brauch, Feb. 1, 2015

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