Last edited 13 Feb 2021

Vibration white finger

Outdoor work can be hazardous - even with appropriate health and safety policies and risk assessments - if employees do not understand the risks and receive appropriate training to manage their own PPE responsibilities, then they may be putting themselves at increased risk.

Vibration White Finger (also known as Raynaud’s disease) affects around 600 people per year with only 635 documented disability cases in 2012. Mostly due to tougher regulations and awareness, which mandates limited exposure to vibrating equipment for workers VWF is on the decline; however, it still affects 20% of the population worldwide.

When working in the cold, those who operate vibrating hand-held machinery are at increased risk for VWF, which is triggered by overexposure to vibrating machinery. The symptoms include the tops of the fingers turning white because of abnormal spasms in the blood vessels, limiting blood supply to local tissues. The primary condition is an autoimmune disease of the connective tissues, but VWF is a secondary characteristic.

VWF can be treated, alleviated, or prevented by wearing gloves in the cold to increase circulation. In serious yet rare cases, VWF can cause ulcers, scarring, or tissue death (also known as gangrene).

To reduce the risk to outdoor workers, limit exposure to any vibrating machinery, especially in the cold. Try and rotate workloads so that any one worker is not exposed for extended periods of time.

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