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Notice to Readers Availability of NIOSH Criteria Documenton Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

In September 1989, CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) published Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Hand-Arm Vibration* (1). This document examines the occupational health problems associated with use of vibrating tools (including both hand-held vibrating tools and stationary tools that transmit vibration through a workpiece) and provides criteria for reducing the risk for developing vibration-induced health problems.

The major health problems associated with the use of vibrating tools are peripheral vascular and peripheral neural disorders of the fingers and hands. The signs and symptoms of these disorders include numbness, pain, and blanching of the fingers. The constellation of vibration-induced signs and symptoms is referred to as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) (sometimes called Raynaud's phenomenon of occupational origin or vibration white finger disease).

In the United States, an estimated 1.5 million workers use vibrating tools. The prevalence of HAVS in worker populations that have used vibrating tools has ranged from 6% to 100% (1). Development of HAVS depends on many factors, including the level of acceleration (vibration energy) produced by the tool, the length of time the tool is used each day, the cumulative number of months or years the worker has used the tool, and the ergonomics of tool use. The tools most commonly associated with HAVS are powered hammers, chisels, chain saws, sanders, grinders, riveters, breakers, drills, compactors, sharpeners, and shapers.

HAVS is a chronic, progressive disorder with a latency period that can vary from a few months to several years. The early stages of HAVS are usually reversible if further exposure to vibration is reduced or eliminated. However, for advanced stages, treatment is usually ineffective, and the disorder can progress to loss of effective hand function and necrosis of the fingers. Therefore, prevention is critical. Adherence to the control measures and medical monitoring practices recommended in this document should prevent or greatly reduce the potential for vibration-exposed workers to develop HAVS. Reported by: Div of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC.

Reference

  1. CDC. Criteria for a recommended standard: occupational exposure to hand-arm vibration. Cincinnati, Ohio: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, 1989; DHHS publication no. (NIOSH)89-106.

*Single copies of this document can be obtained without charge from the Information Dissemination Section, Division of Standards Development and Technology Transfer, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, Ohio 45226; telephone: (513) 533-8287.

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