Although Oklahoma construction workers may use gloves to keep their hands warm during the winter, they may not realize that there are more risks than just a loss of comfort when their gloves are off. One of the most common neuromuscular disorders for construction workers is also believed to be very costly and significantly underappreciated. In fact, hand-arm vibration syndrome can be misdiagnosed, under-reported or unrecognized. However, it may affect at least 1 million workers in the fields of construction and manufacturing.
HAVS involves serious damage to the nerves and blood vessels of the hand because of vibration. Workers are exposed to vibration over extended periods as they operate certain types of equipment. Examples include chain saws, pneumatic hammers, concrete vibrators and other equipment that vibrates. Workers may grip these tools tightly for safety reasons. However, a tight grip may intensify the damage that can occur. Cold air can exacerbate the damage, an issue that might particularly affect those who smoke while they work.
A worker may not be aware that the risk of HAVS exists, which may result in a failure to change risky habits with vibrating tools until the damage is done. One of the most challenging issues with this condition is that symptoms may not be noticed for months or even years after damage has been suffered. Even more difficult is the fact that symptoms of HAVS can be very similar to those suffered by individuals with cervical neuropathy or carpal tunnel syndrome.
A diagnosis of HAVS might be used to support a workers’ compensation claim or a Social Security Disability case. Because HAVS damage is irreparable, an individual with this diagnosis typically won’t see an improvement in the condition. However, legal support may be helpful for emphasizing this issue during the application and claims process.