Vibration white finger (VWF) is a very painful condition caused by the regular and extended use of industrial vibrating tools. When not restricted to the fingers, the condition may also be known as hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). If you are suffering from either you may be eligible to claim compensation.
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What is vibration white finger?
Vibration white finger is a repetitive strain injury affecting the nerves, tendons, blood vessels and joints of the forearm, wrist and hand. The effects can be long lasting and cause extreme pain. Symptoms can be so severe that someone suffering from VWF is left unable to properly use their hands, or perform delicate tasks that require close control or good dexterity. Whilst the symptoms can often be debilitating and leave workers unable to work, they can also be milder. In any event, the access to pursuing a claim for compensation remains available.
The most common symptoms affecting people suffering with vibration white finger or hand arm vibration syndrome are:
- Aches and pains in the lower arm and hands
- Tingling or numbness in the fingers. Usually in the tip but can also be from tip to base of finger. The tingling pain can become extremely painful.
- Whiteness of the finger starting at the tip spreading down to the palm of the hand.
- Intense redness to the tips of the finger.
- Loss of grip, sometimes with substantial loss of dexterity to the fingers making fine manual tasks difficult to complete, such as buttoning a shirt or opening a packet.
What tools cause VWF or HAVS?
The tools associated with causing vibration white finger are often used in heavy industry such as engineering, manufacturing plants and construction sites. Use of a pneumatic drill is one common example that leads to this type of injury.
Evidence shows that the weight or strength of a vibrating tool does not give any indication as to whether or not it will cause a VWF or HAVS industrial injury. Indeed, any size or speed of vibrating tool can cause damage to nerves by way of a repetitive strain injury if they are used or handled incorrectly.
Workers using such tools should take regular breaks or rotate between different jobs in order to avoid the overuse of vibratory equipment. As with all work injuries, if you’re getting hurt or feeling the symptoms of vibration white finger, you have a legal right to seek rest and removal of the cause.
Employer responsibilities to prevent vibration white finger
Employers tasking workers with the use of vibratory tools have a responsibility to ensure that they are provided with training and personal protective equipment to minimise risk of injury. Most take the well-being and safety of their staff very seriously, however, not all provide workers with the correct tools, training or support, and this can lead to a claim being made.
According to the Health & Safety Executive, employers ‘must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration so that they can protect their employees from risks to their health’.
Best practice indicates that where required, employers of staff using vibratory equipment must ensure that:
- Control measures to reduce vibration are properly applied
- They provide information, training and health surveillance
Employers must review the work and use of tools that employees are undertaking if anything changes that may affect exposure to vibration. Failure to take such action and provide protection to employees from the risk of injury is likely to be seen as employer negligence and could indicate that you have a strong prospect of succeeding with a claim for compensation.
How claiming compensation will help
Whether your vibration white finger symptoms have caused you to be unable to work and therefore lose income, or simply left you suffering from nagging ongoing discomfort, there are many benefits to successfully pursuing a claim for compensation.
If successful, your settlement will cover the pain and distress of the injury and include special damages to recover any lost wages, medical costs or expenses you have incurred. You may also be able to access specialist rehabilitation therapies to speed your recovery.
Example vibration white finger compensation amounts
The figures quoted below are based on the maximum Judicial College guidelines and were accurate at the time of publication.
At the lower end of the claim values, people suffering with more mild VWF symptoms where a diagnosis has been made, but the symptoms do not effect day to day life, a claimant can expect to receive a settlement in the region of £2,000 to £6,000.
For those with more painful symptoms, but that would not be described as serious, a likely claim value would range from £6,000 to £12,000. This would relate to people who suffer regular discomfort and bouts of pain but who are able to continue with life as normal.
In the the more serious of cases where the severity of the symptoms are an almost daily occurrence and have caused a considerable amount of disruption to normal life, a claimant may receive a settlement of up to £22,000.
In the most serious of cases, where the symptoms impair and effect everyday life, a claimant is likely to be unable to work and will be facing ongoing problems. In such cases, settlements for the injury may go as high as £27,000.
Of course, people can also claim special damages on top of these sums if they have suffered a loss of income in the past or are unable to work in the future.