Vibrating instruments expose workers to hand-arm or full-body vibration that causes a variety of health conditions. These health problems usually begin as pain and may become an injury or disease after a prolonged period of continuous vibration exposure. Workers who frequently operate heavy equipment, power tools, and trucks are at a greater risk of hand-arm or full-body vibration exposure. These workers mostly work in the agriculture, construction, automotive, maintenance, mining, transportation, and forestry industries.
Health Issues Associated with Hand-Arm Vibration
Workers who operate hand-held vibrating tools are likely to suffer from a condition called vibration-induced white finger (VWF). Exposing the hands to cold worsens the symptoms of this condition. Vibration can lead to changes in joints, bones, tendons, and muscles, as well as the functioning of the nervous system. Cumulatively, these effects are called Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Symptoms of HAVS include:
- Blanching or whitening of one or several fingers due to cold exposure
- Pain and numbness in the fingers
- Loss or reduced grip strength
- Loss of light touch
- Development of bone cysts in wrists and fingers
Health Issues Associated with Full-Body Vibration
Full-body vibration can trigger fatigue, headache, stomach issues, and loss of balance right after or during exposure. Symptoms of full-body vibration exposure are akin to those experienced by people after a long trip in a car or boat. Prolonged full-body vibration exposure can impact the whole body and lead to numerous health disorders. Studies of heavy vehicle drivers show that occupational exposure to full-body vibration accounts for a variety of circulatory, respiratory, back, bowel, and muscular disorders.
Protection from Work-Related Injuries
Every employer has a legal obligation to protect his or her employees from workplace injuries. If an employee suffers workers’ compensation injuries due to an accident or through the cumulative operation of equipment, his or her lawyer may first help the victim in establishing qualification for workers’ compensation benefits.
Aside from exposure to vibration, operating dangerous machines is another common cause of serious work-related injuries. Although every machine has the likelihood of causing a workplace injury, some machines are more hazardous than others. Machines that work by rotating clutches, cams, and flywheels can grasp and forcefully push parts of the body into the machinery, causing amputations. Some of the most hazardous workplace machines are food slicers, printing presses, meat grinders, conveyors, power press brakes, and milling machines.
Legal Support for Workplace Accident Victims
While workers’ compensation insurance is generally the exclusive remedy for work-related injuries, it may not be the only avenue an injured worker has when pursuing a claim to recover damages. If a workplace accident happens because of the intentionally reckless actions of an employer or the negligence of a machine manufacturer, an attorney may be able to help ensure the responsible party is held liable. A worker who loses a limb, or is otherwise traumatically injured, can seek compensation for medical expenses, loss of earning potential, loss of wages, and pain and suffering. In the event of a traumatic workplace injury, a work injury attorney can utilize information such as medical reports, safety citations, and eyewitness statements to determine the cause of the accident and the injury’s effect on the capability of the injured employee to keep on carrying out regular job functions.