Some equipment used by cleaners, for example, floor cleaning machines can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). The Health & Safety Executive/UNISON research (see page 22) found that cleaning staff are potentially exposed to HAVS when using floor-buffing machines.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome is the name given to a group of diseases commonly known as vibration white finger. HAVS occurs when workers are exposed to high levels of vibration from hand-held tools and equipment. HAVS is extremely painful and can cause:
■ Painful finger blanching attacks (triggered by cold or wet weather).
■ Loss of sense of touch.
■ Numbness and tingling.
■ Loss of grip strength and manual dexterity.
Employers have a legal duty to prevent HAVS and the disease is reportable under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations. Safety representatives can use their rights to identify cleaners at risk and ensure that employers make improvements. A checklist is set out overleaf to help you do this. Safety representatives will also need to ensure that cleaning staff report and record any symptoms of HAVS and seek medical advice as early as possible.