As winter approaches we will probably be met with the hazard of cold and snowy conditions in some parts of the UK. As we know these conditions can cause huge disruptions in the workplace ranging from travel problems through to employee illness.
A condition particularly susceptible to the cold is Raynaud’s syndrome where the small blood vessels in the extremities such as hands and feet, fingers or toes are over-sensitive to changes in temperature, the cold and sometimes stress.
A secondary form of the condition is vibration white finger (VWF), also known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger. Although vibration causes the condition, it does not bring on the attacks. The main trigger for the symptoms is exposure to the cold, for example being outdoors early on a winter’s morning.
For employees who use vibrating tools as part of their job, there are some steps to take to reduce the chances of developing VWF:
- Try to hold tools loosely and in varying positions, but still in a controlled manner.
- Ensure the tools are well maintained.
- Be properly trained in the correct use of each tool used.
- Take regular breaks of at least ten minutes away from the tool, as short bursts are better than lengthy periods.
- Also, as previously mentioned, try to keep warm at work, as the cold can exacerbate the condition.
It’s also important to note, the more work the tool does, the less you have to use your own strength and therefore less stress is placed on your body.
The purpose of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 is to protect workers by making sure people do not suffer damage to their health from hand-arm vibration. Therefore, efforts should be concentrated on controlling the risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration.
Those whose employees don’t use vibrating tools may also be affected by Raynaud’s syndrome. Some coping methods are:
- When it's cold, don a hat, scarf, socks and boots, and two layers of mittens or gloves before you go outside.
- Wear a coat with snug cuffs to go around your mittens or gloves, to prevent cold air from reaching your hands.
- Partake in regular exercise.
- Limit amount of caffeine consumed.
- Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
It’s key for employers to be aware of and make allowances for the condition to ensure employees do not develop it or worsen their symptoms.
How Alcumus can help
To find out more, contact your Health and Safety Consultant, visit our Health and Safety Consultancy page, or email us on [email protected].
Health and Safety Consultant