The use of vibrating power tools can lead to health effects known as ‘Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome’ (HAVS). HAVS causes changes in finger sensation which can lead to permanent numbness, muscle weakness and white fingers. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is also associated with exposure to vibration and can coexist with HAVS.
The question of whether personal protective equipment (PPE) such as anti-vibration gloves are beneficial in the management of HAVS has been investigated. Anti-vibration gloves are typically made from resilient gel, foam or rubber-like materials, or an array of air bladders.
There are many influencing factors that determine how the vibration of a tool is transmitted to the user. This includes:
- The vibration spectrum (in Hz) of the power tool
- The main direction of the vibration
- The transmissibility of the glove in that direction
- The physical characteristics of the wearer
- The posture and amount of force applied by the wearer to the vibrating surface/tool
The complex interaction between these many factors makes accurately predicting and measuring the individual performance of anti-vibration gloves very difficult.
This makes anti-vibration gloves unreliable as a form of PPE against vibration exposure.
Employers should not assume that anti-vibration gloves reduce vibration exposures unless specific data are available for the combination of glove and tool used.
Ultimately, anti-vibration gloves alone should not be relied on to provide suitable and consistent protection to the wearer. Individuals should consider all other available means of vibration control before using anti-vibration gloves for protection.
Management of exposure to HAVS in the workplace typically includes eliminating the need for the exposure, using modern, low-vibration machinery and minimising exposure times.
If you need further advice about your hands, contact us at Peninsula Hand Therapy. Or, to find a Hand Therapist near you search the Australian Hand Therapy association website.
This blog has been written by Brooke Taylor & Ross Bruce.
Hewitt, S., Dong, R., McDowell, T., & Welcome, D. (2016). The Efficacy of Anti-vibration Gloves. Acoustics Australia, 44(1), 121-127. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40857-015-0040-5