What Our New York Construction Accident Lawyers Want You to Know About Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

Performing physical labor with power tools and heavy machinery takes an immense toll on your body. While catastrophic injuries from accidents like falls or being struck by objects are the obvious risks, there are also debilitating cumulative trauma disorders that develop gradually and severely impact your quality of life. 

One such condition is hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), caused by repetitive use of vibrating hand-held machines like jackhammers, sanders, and drills. The vibrations may inflict permanent damage, leaving you to endure unbearable tingling, numbness, blanching of the fingers, and reduced grip strength. This makes routine tasks agonizing and threatens your future in the construction industry. 

No construction worker should have to sacrifice their health and future for a paycheck. If you experience hand-arm vibration syndrome from working with heavy machinery on construction sites, the experienced New York construction lawyers at Hofmann & Schweitzer can fight for your fair compensation.  

Construction Machinery That Can Cause Hand-Arm Syndrome

On construction sites across New York, New Jersey, and around the country, numerous types of handheld power tools and equipment expose workers to dangerous levels of vibration. Some of the most common causes of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) include the repetitive use of construction equipment such as:

  • Jackhammers and chipping hammers. These tools transfer intense vibrations into the operator's hands and arms when breaking up concrete, asphalt, or rock. The jarring impact forces can lead to nerve damage.
  • Sanders and grinders. Preparing surfaces by sanding or grinding subjects workers to substantial vibration exposure, especially when using these tools for extended periods. The high RPMs amplify the harmful effects.  
  • Chainsaws. Whether cutting lumber, trees, or concrete, chainsaws concentrate powerful oscillations into the handles, putting immense stress on the hands and arms over a full work shift.
  • Hammer drills and impact wrenches. Drilling holes or tightening bolts using percussive rotary tools creates high-amplitude vibrations that can be crippling with overuse.
  • Concrete vibrators. When compacting concrete, the shaking motion transmitted through these tools makes avoiding HAVS difficult without strict work-rest schedules.

Even jobs like operating compactors, excavators, or loaders can contribute to HAVS when workers endure whole-body vibration day after day. Identifying and controlling excessive vibration exposures is critical for preventing this disabling yet often underrecognized occupational hazard.

Machine Defects May Also Cause HAVS

The design of the machine could lead to excessive vibration, when there was an alternative design available. In other cases, something went wrong in the actual manufacturing of the device that caused it to injure you. If you were hurt by defective construction machinery, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for damages. 

How Vibration Harms Your Body

Vibration is a violent and repetitive motion that could repeatedly affect the same muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and tendons. The vibration may cause injury through:

  • Stenosis. Narrowing of the vessels that supply blood to the hands.
  • Nerve damage. The continuous vibration can damage or impair the nerves in the hands and fingers.
  • Vibration White Finger. This effect is similar to Raynaud’s Phenomenon, where the fingers in your hand can turn white or blue.

If you use hand-operated power tools for as little as 15 minutes a day, you are at risk of hand-arm vibration syndrome. Over time, the effects of the continuous vibrations can add up and cause lasting damage. One study published decades ago found that workers who use these types of heavy machinery for as little as one year could be at risk for harm-arm vibration syndrome. 

New York Law Protects Construction Workers With HAVS

12 NYCRR 23-1.5 requires employers to provide safe working conditions for employees. Further, 12 NYCRR 23-9.2 requires that all power-operated equipment be maintained in good repair and operated by trained workers in a safe manner. The failure to provide safe equipment, proper training, or safe working conditions could violate New York law.

Severe hand-arm syndrome may even mean that you can no longer work or go about your daily activities. Our construction accident lawyers can investigate the cause of your injury and help determine whether you may be able to pursue legal compensation for it.

Timothy F. Schweitzer
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Personal injury lawyer specializing in maritime, construction and railroad injury claims.