Professional Builder has teamed up with Festool to discuss ways to maintain the health of tradespeople. In its second instalment, we discuss the importance of looking after your hands.
Recently, a study of British workplaces’ health and safety conditions found that as a nation we suffer more than 18,000 hand injuries each year. It’s a big problem, which equates to more than 127,400 collective absence days annually, costing the economy millions, not to mention the large fines for companies. It’s especially vital that the construction industry sector becomes more aware about the causes of unnecessary hand, wrist and arm injuries and works to eradicate them.
Many people assume that the biggest risk to hands on-site is from an accidental cut. In fact, tradespeople are far more likely to suffer injuries caused by prolonged exposure to vibration, particularly a condition called Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). HAVS is a serious, disabling injury that is prevalent in the construction industry. HAVS causes changes in the sensation of the fingers and can lead to a permanent numbness of fingers and muscle weakness.
Tradespeople who operate hand-held, or hand guided tools are at serious risk of developing it. Similarly, if you hold workpieces, which vibrate while being processed, or operate a hammer action tool, your chances of acquiring the condition are elevated. It’s important that those working in such environments are aware of the early warning signs and keep an eye out for symptoms. Such symptoms can include tingling in the fingers, loss of strength in hands and fingertips turning white in wet and cold conditions.
The most effective way to curtail the onset of HAVS is to reduce vibrations from your daily operations. A variety of factors can have an impact on vibrations such as machine choice, accessories, consumables or how the machine is being used.
Fortunately, innovative tools from leading manufacturers like Festool are designed with the health of the user in mind.
Festool products, such as the ETS EC 125, have patented VS balancing ensuring that it runs smoothly during sanding, making work less hazardous. Some of the Festool tools also have a “Vibration Control System” which actively regulates vibration. This ensures smoother operation and noticeably lower risk.
However, it is not only the mechanics of Festool products that help. The whole Festool system works to make tradespeople’s jobs easier and less hazardous. From the dust extraction that increases removal rate to sanding backing pads that help decrease vibrations. There is also a dedicated team for customers to get advice and training from, to identify customers’ needs and advice on specific ways to help drop expected exposure levels.
This system approach is helping tradespeople complete everyday construction tasks in a far safer manner and is part of Festool’s goal to improve the working conditions of tradespeople.