The term HAVS (hand arm vibration syndrome) is a general term for injuries caused by the use of vibrating machinery. Some common injuries include vibration white finger and carpal tunnel syndrome which have led to a significant number of compensation claims in the past. One of the main problems with HAVS is the fact that it can take many years to develop and symptoms often go unnoticed. However, if you have suffered any degree of hand arm vibration syndrome due to negligence by your employer then you may be eligible to start a HAVS compensation claim.
Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Injuries
There are three categories of injury caused as a consequence of HAVS which are vascular, musculoskeletal and neurological.
One of the clearest examples of vascular injuries is in vibration white finger and the impact on blood flow via the blood vessels in hands and fingers. The constant vibration of the machinery damages the small blood vessels which then constricts and reduces blood flow. Cold weather is the main trigger for this particular condition with the area in question changing colour from pink to white. Even when the area “returns to normal” the increased flow of blood can itself be painful.
Hand arm vibration syndrome can bring on a number of musculoskeletal injuries which include arthritis, tendinitis and a varying degree of reduced mobility. It can also have a detrimental impact upon muscle fibres in and around the hand area which often leads to reduced grip. As with a number of symptoms in relation to HAVS this type of injury often goes unreported.
Unfortunately, as HAVS symptoms can sometimes take years to appear very often irreversible neurological damage has already been done. The main symptoms tend to be numbness or tingling in hands and fingers which can lead to reduced grip and a significant impact on a person’s life. Most people would tend to put this type of discomfort down to tiredness or general ageing but it is a medically proven symptom of hand arm vibration syndrome.
- Distinctive white patches emerging on the skin especially in cold weather;
- An uncomfortable but not overwhelming tingling pain in the fingers;
- General numbness in one or more fingers;
- Total loss of sensation in fingers;
- Muscle damage leading to reduced grip and mobility of the hands and fingers.
Aside from the more general Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which places a legal duty on employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations Act 2005 is perhaps more important in this instance. The act places a legal obligation on employers to ensure:
- Frequent breaks from operating vibrating tools;
- Supply of appropriate safety equipment including the correct anti-vibration gloves;
- A reasonable temperature is maintained in the workplace;
- Supply of appropriate safety equipment to minimise the threat of HAVS;
- Initial and regular training with regards to health and safety in the workplace.
In some instances it has taken more than a decade to diagnose hand arm vibration syndrome in its many different forms. Vibration white finger is an injury which perfectly illustrates this long-term gradual wearing down of the senses and muscle damage. However, just because a diagnosis is made years or maybe even decades later this does impact the legal right to claim compensation.
HAVS Compensation Amounts
As we know, HAVS is a condition which can develop over many years and often goes undiagnosed. There are now specific tests which can be carried out by doctors which will grade the damage caused by vibrating tools and machinery. When looking at levels of compensation for hand arm vibration syndrome there are a number of bands which include:
- Minor injuries which have a minimal impact on everyday life and effect just a few fingers tend to attract HAVS compensation from £2,810 up to £8,110.
- Moderate damage will take in those individuals who have benefited in later life from a change in working practices but still suffer from discomfort and obvious signs of hand arm vibration syndrome in cold weather. In these circumstances, HAVS compensation of between £8,110 and £15,740 may be available.
- Serious injuries which have an impact on and individuals working and private life, with regular bouts of discomfort, tend to attract compensation for HAVS from around £15,740 up to £29,690.
- The most serious injuries have a daily impact upon an individual’s ability to work and carry out everyday tasks. The scale of compensation is between £29,690 and £36,060 with the higher compensation rate is often associated with younger sufferers of HAVS.
Reduced mobility and issues with grip can be extremely distressing and may even open up the potential to claim for psychological injury. As a consequence, it is advisable to take guidance from an experienced personal injury solicitor.
Proving Negligence In A Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Claim
Unfortunately for many people, HAVS is a type of injury which has historically gone unnoticed for many years leading to significant damage to hands and fingers. Thankfully, there are now simple medical tests which will confirm the symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome and degrees of severity. It is now much easier than many people might think to directly link HAVS with historic working practices. If you suffer from any of the symptoms of HAVS shown above and have used vibrating machinery/ tools on a regular basis then you may well have a claim for hand arm vibration syndrome compensation.
Negligence in most work related injury claims is fairly easy to prove using simple medical tests and employment records. The fact that a diagnosis may not be received until years or even decades down the line doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to claim compensation. In the eyes of the law the three year time limit to file a claim for compensation, which normally starts from the date of the incident, will start on the day the diagnosis was received. When attempting to prove negligence for HAVS it is vital to gather as much evidence as possible. The majority will be medical and employment related but may also include witness statements from others who might have suffered similar injuries in your place of work.
Starting A HAVS Compensation Claim
When contacting personal injury solicitors about starting a HAVS compensation claim most will be happy to provide advice and their opinion on your case in a free consultation, and almost always by phone. In the consultation they will want to know what you think has caused the HAVS injury and will review what evidence you have. If the solicitor decides (in their opinion) you have a claim for HAVS compensation they will look to offer their services on a No Win No Fee basis. In exchange for removing the burden of legal expenses from the claimant, your solicitor would look to agree a success fee and is generally 25% of the compensation awarded.
When you have chosen a solicitor your HAVS claim will be filed with the courts and a copy of evidence made available to the defendant. Where negligence is accepted the defendant will likely look towards an early compensation settlement. If negligence is not agreed, no agreement on compensation can be reached, or there could be shared negligence between various parties, your claim will go before the courts. A judge will review all evidence and make a ruling on negligence and possible HAVS compensation.