Vibration White Finger (VWF) is now more commonly known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). It’s an industrial disease or condition that mainly affects those who operate hand-held vibrating power tools such as pneumatic drills, chainsaws, grinders, impact hammers, impact wrenches, sanders, or other power tools over a number of years. The condition was initially thought only to cause whiteness (or blanching) of the fingers, but tingling and numbness are also common, and cold weather aches and pains are often reported.
The industry accepted date from which employers are deemed to have had knowledge of the damage that vibration can do is 1 January 1976.
Symptoms of vibration exposure
Symptoms of Hand-Arm Vibration vary between individuals but the more common are:
Once you have developed the condition, there is very little that can be done to treat it. However, you should seek medical attention from your GP to confirm the diagnosis, and, if you’re still working, you should also report it to your employer so that you can be relieved from using power tools. If you smoke, this can make symptoms worse so if you can stop smoking, this may help you. You should try to keep your hands warm where possible to keep blood flowing, but unfortunately once nerves have been damaged, they can’t be repaired.
You should also seek legal advice from a specialist solicitor who can advise you of your right to claim compensation.
How to claim compensation
There are a number of hurdles you will need to overcome in order to succeed with a claim:
1 Limitation – you must bring a claim within 3 years of the date you knew, or ought to have known, that your condition could have been caused by your work.
2 Causation – you must be diagnosed with VWF or HAVS that has been caused by your employment (We will obtain medical evidence on your behalf to prove that point and we will discuss your work & exposure history with you).
3 Foreseeability – you must prove that your employer could have foreseen that exposure to vibration could have caused that damage and that your employer knew of the risk.
4 Negligence and breach of duty – you must be able to demonstrate that your employer exposed you to excessive vibration in breach of the laws and health & safety regulations. (If they failed to prevent or reduce the exposure to vibration, or failed to supply you with protective gloves, this will assist you.)
It is important to note that all of these hurdles must be overcome, not just one or two.
Who to claim against
Your symptoms must have arisen within a short period of time since your last exposure to vibration, and you should aim to claim against your employer regardless of whether or not they remain in business. It is often possible to trace the employers’ liability insurance of a previous firm and, once located, the insurers will investigate their liability to pay compensation to you. If negligence is accepted, that insurer should pay compensation to you based on the damage you have suffered.
If court proceedings are necessary, it may be that some companies that are no longer in existence have to be restored to the Companies House Register for that purpose.