Vibration white finger is classified as an industrial disease which is caused by continuous use of vibrating hand held machinery and power tools. Although more commonly associated with the manufacturing and road building professions, vibration white finger can affect many other types of employees, from shoemakers who use leather cutting tools to dental assistants who regularly use a tooth polisher on their patients.
Symptoms of Vibration White Finger
Vibration white finger injury affects the blood vessels within the finger, and initially manifests when the weather is cold or you touch a cold object. The affected finger loses its colour and turns pale as the blood vessels inside of it narrow, and then blue as the oxygen in the finger is exhausted, finally returning to a deep red as the blood vessels open up again.
The opening and closing of the blood vessels causes a tingling sensation in the finger when a vibration white finger injury is only just developing, but can deteriorate into a loss of sensation and manual dexterity as the condition worsens, and can extend from only affecting the victim during cold weather into a year-round complaint.
Vibration White Finger Diagnosis
If you have started to experience the symptoms of a vibration white finger injury, you should seek a medical examination straight away. Although the symptoms of vibration white finger usually take many years to manifest and may take many more before you lose feeling in the finger, some cases have been known to deteriorate quickly depending on the standard of one´s general health and how resilient the blood vessels are to prolonged vibration.
There is no “cure” as such for vibration white finger. The blood vessels may heal by themselves if you stop using the tools which are causing the problem, and the use of gloves in cold weather will prevent the spasms of the arteries in the finger as the temperature changes. However, once the condition becomes permanent, your doctor will only be able to provide pain management treatment, and this is why it is better to consult your doctor sooner rather than later.
Responsibility for Vibration White Finger
If you have developed a vibration white finger injury, your employer is usually the person responsible. Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, employers have to provide their staff with a safe environment in which to work, and this includes limiting the amount of time which an employee is exposed to the risk of a vibration white finger injury.
A risk assessment of using vibrating tools should be made before a task is allocated and sufficient rest breaks should be provided, or a rotation of duties introduced, to prevent vibration white finger. Your employer should provide tools for the job which measure the acceleration, amplitude and duration of vibrations, and training on how to use the displays to eliminate the risk of vibration white finger should be given.
Making a Vibration White Finger Claim
If you have been diagnosed with a vibration white finger injury, and your condition can be attributed to your employer failing to follow health and safety procedures, you are entitled to claim vibration white finger compensation. The injury should be recorded in your employer´s “Accident Report Book” and a copy of this report, together with a copy of your medical records, sent to the Injuries Board Ireland for an assessment of your vibration white finger claim.
They will require you to undergo an independent medical examination to determine the extent of the injury and make an assessment based on the result of that examination. They will also assess whether special damages are due in respect of any effect your vibration white finger has had on your quality of life and also include in your assessment damages for any out of pocket expenses you have accrued or loss of income from not being able to work.
Vibration White Finger Compensation
How much compensation you receive for your vibration white finger claim will depend on the severity of your injury and the effect it has had on your ability to work, drive and perform other everyday tasks. One of the reasons that 90 per cent of people making a vibration white finger compensation claim choose to do so with the assistance of a solicitor is that a solicitor will be able to advise you of the full range of damages you are entitled to claim.
A solicitor will also be able to represent you in litigation if your employer denies their liability for your injury or claims that you contributed to it by your own lack of care – reasons for the Injuries Board Ireland to decline assessment of your vibration white finger compensation claim and issue you with an authorisation to pursue your claims through the courts. Litigation might also be necessary if there is a disagreement over the amount of vibration white finger compensation assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland.
- Vibration white finger is an industrial injury which can affect any employee who uses a vibrating tool or machine on a regular basis or for a prolonged period of time.
- Vibration white finger can develop into a painful and permanent condition if you delay in having a medical examination.
- There are many health and safety regulations controlling the use of vibrating machinery and tools, and if your employer fails to apply them, you can claim vibration white finger compensation
- How much vibration white finger you will receive is dependent on the extent of your injury and the effect it has on your quality of life.
- A vibration white finger claim is first assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland, but may have to go through the courts if there is a dispute over liability or the level of compensation.
- Most people making a vibration white finger compensation claim choose to do so to ensure they receive the maximum amount of compensation they are entitled to.
It is important to note that each case is unique. If you have been unfortunate enough to have suffered vibration white finger and feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.