Research

Carpel tunnel risks doubled by tool vibrations

After identifying a high prevalence of vibration-related chronic pain, diseases and neurological disorders in a large group of workers, US researchers from Columbia University and the State University of New York have called for the proper assessment of vibration emissions from powered hand tools, and outlined workplace control measures.

They found 18 per cent of almost 4,000 railway maintenance and construction workers using various powered hand tools experienced pain in the upper extremities, and also that the risk of pain increased significantly after 10 years of vibration-causing work. Most symptomatic workers experienced symptoms of vibration-related disease daily or weekly, including paraesthesia ('pins and needles') and white finger. They found it difficult to pick up small objects or open tight jars, and were more than twice as likely as others to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Employers and occupational health professionals with insufficient knowledge of these disorders, vibration emissions information for specific tools or proper exposure assessment guidelines, can miss timely opportunities for intervention and prevention of irreversible musculoskeletal, vascular and nervous system disorders of the upper extremity, the researchers say.

The researchers said vibration risks can be reduced through use of tools and equipment incorporating vibration attenuation technology and improved design, and also administrative measures like time management.  With regard to tools, they recommended reliable and easily comparable emission data and information for the employer, buyer and user which would allow comparisons to be made. 
Read more: Eckardt Johanning, et al, Powered-hand tools and vibration-related disorders in US-railway maintenance-of-way workers. [Abstract] [Full text pdf] Industrial Health, online first August 2020, doi: 10.2486/indhealth.2020-0133.
Source: OHSAlert. Read more on Vibration

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