There are many conditions that can affect the hands of a Minnesota construction worker, but one of the most common issues in the industry may be one of the most difficult to identify. Hand-arm vibration syndrome can be tough to diagnose because of the time that can lapse between exposure to damaging conditions and the manifestation of symptoms. Additionally, HAVS can be an elusive diagnosis because of similarities to carpal tunnel syndrome and cervical radiculitis, two common sources of numbness or tingling in the hands.
HAVS can take as few as six months or as long as six years to become symptomatic. In many cases, workers who handle vibrating tools can spend years performing the activity in question without symptoms. In other cases, individuals who have had only a small amount of involvement in such activities can deal with debilitating pain. One of the significant factors that distinguishes HAVS from other causes of numbness and tingling is the presence of blanching, which is also known as white finger syndrome. Vibrating equipment can damage both nerves and blood vessels, and the circulatory impact of vessel damage includes a loss of color, especially during cold conditions.
The condition was initially identified in a cold setting as 89 percent of quarry workers at an Indiana site displayed the white finger symptoms. Exposure to very cold air can increase one’s risk of HAVS, making it important to wear gloves that meet OSHA standards when operating pneumatic tools, drills, grinders, and concrete vibrators.
A construction worker who experiences numb hands might be dealing with work injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, in which case workers’ compensation benefits may help to cover the costs of treatment. In a case involving a severe and irreparable case of HAVS, however, there could be a more involved claims process as the condition might prevent an individual from continuing in their construction career. In either case, legal representation might be helpful.