Increased interest in Express Medicals’ Tier 5 HAVS testing

Recent fines and press coverage for non-compliance with Hand-Arm Vibration (HAVS) regulations have highlighted the importance of regular testing and reporting of results, to keep employees safe at work.

Express Medicals offers all five tiers of testing for HAVS : an increasingly popular service for employers keen to avoid prosecution and/or heavy fines.

Employers have a legal duty to report confirmed cases of HAVS and vibration-induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) when they receive a formal written diagnosis from a doctor confirming that an employee has either HAVS or carpal tunnel syndrome that is likely to be occupational in origin. They must make sure that all employees who are exposed to vibration are regularly checked with Tier 1 and 2 HAVS questionnaires and to ensure that, if any symptoms are mentioned, this is escalated to HAVS 3 or 4 assessments.

HAVS is a widespread hazard for employees in many industries and occupations and can arise from the use of hand-held power tools (such as grinders or hammer drills), hand-guided machinery (such as lawnmowers and plate compactors) and hand-fed machines (such as pedestal grinders). Prolonged and regular exposure to this vibration can affect the operator’s health. The good news is that risks from vibration can be controlled, and employees can be protected from ill health caused by vibration. To protect employees, and to comply with legal requirements, employers need to assess the risks from vibration and plan how to control them.

HAVS surveillance consists of 5 Tiers:

Tier 1 – This is the first questionnaire that an employee who is likely to be exposed to vibration will fill out when they start to work for the employer.

Tier 2 – This is the same questionnaire as Tier 1, completed yearly for employees who are exposed to vibration in their role.

Tier 3 – When an employee declares vibration-related symptoms in either the Tier 1 or Tier 2 questionnaire, this will be escalated to a Tire 3 assessment. This assessment will be carried out by a HAVS qualified nurse. This includes taking a detailed history (which is the most important part of the assessment) and physical tests that assess the vascular system and the nervous system in the hands. The outcome of this process will help the nurse to decide whether there is reason to believe that this could be HAVS. If so, the nurse will escalate this to a Tier 4 and recommend interim adjustment of exposure to vibration.

Tier 4 – This is an assessment delivered by a HAVS qualified doctor. It consists of a detailed history, assessment of the symptoms and signs of HAVS. We test dexterity and sensation, assessing the vascular system in the hands and look at grip strength etc. The doctor will decide whether to make a diagnosis of HAVS or vibration-induced Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and will advise on further surveillance and recommend limits to exposure going forward.

Tier 5 – In addition to clinical findings from Tiers 3 and 4, we can conduct standardised tests at our clinic in London for any employee who has signs or symptoms of HAVS. This testing provides a quantitative assessment, which is compared against ‘normal’ data. If such testing is obtained, the final diagnosis of HAVS still depends upon the judgement of the doctor and will need to take account of the reported symptoms.

After each of these tiers a report will go to the employer recommending further surveillance and advice of limits to exposure.

If you would like further information about HAVS testing, contact us here and one of our in-house medical staff will help you understand your obligations and how we can help you meet them.