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Cold Hands and Power Tools a Bad Fit

The vibration in cold or wet weather can cause a painful condition

SATURDAY, Nov. 15, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Goldfinger was James Bond's archenemy, and Coldfinger could be yours if you're not careful when you use power tools in cold, wet weather.

Vibration white finger (VWF) is the most common form of a condition called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which affects blood vessels, joints, nerves and muscles in the hands, wrists and arms, says the University of Central Lancashire.

There are a number of symptoms that may indicate HAVS. You may initially have a tingling sensation and numbness in your fingers. In cold, wet weather, fingers will turn white, then blue, then red and be very painful.

You may have difficulty picking up objects such as nails because you'll have reduced feeling in your fingers, along with loss of strength and grip in your hands. There may also be pain, tingling and numbness in your arms, wrists or hands.

You could be at risk of developing HAVS if you regularly use certain hand-held power tools, including hammer drills, jigsaws, sanders and angle grinders, concrete breakers, chipping hammers or power lawnmowers.

There are a number of ways to avoid vibration white finger and other forms of HAVS. All tools and machines you use in cold weather should be designed so they can be operated by workers wearing gloves. Keep your body warm and dry to ensure good circulation.

Quit or cut down on cigarette smoking, which reduces your body's blood flow. When you have lunch or a break, massage and exercise your fingers. Keep tools in warm storage areas when they're not being used. That way, the handles won't be cold when you go to use them.

Try to do work in a way that doesn't require using vibrating power tools. If you have to use such tools, choose ones that produce lower levels of vibration. Keep power tools sharpened, well maintained and repaired. Vibration increases when tools are dull or in poor condition.

More information

Here's where to go to get more information about occupational vibration hazards.

SOURCE: University of Central Lancashire
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