Although there are many work-related safety concerns during cold weather in Pennsylvania, construction and manufacturing employees are more likely to observe those related to footing, positioning and body temperature. Slips and falls or hypothermia are apt to be significant risks during the brutal winter months. While gloves would be used to protect against the cold, it is also important for those who operate tools that vibrate to realize that even short periods of hand exposure to the cold while working could contribute to irreparable damage in the form of hand-arm vibration syndrome.
HAVS was identified in 1918 by a doctor who evaluated numerous individuals working at a quarry in Indiana. Nearly 90 percent of these workers had problems with white fingers, which has since been connected to blood vessel damage that occurs with extended exposure to vibrating equipment, especially when temperatures are chilly. Nerve damage is another critical aspect of this condition, and HAVS mimics cervical radiculopathy and carpal tunnel syndrome in that it causes numbness and tingling.
One of the challenges in diagnosing HAVS is that symptoms may be intermittent if the damage is not severe. In a severe scenario, however, gangrene could occur, which makes diagnosing hand issues a serious matter for an individual who is experiencing numbness, cold fingers, blanching or other worrisome symptoms. A worker might not realize that their hand symptoms are work-related at first, but eligible employees who uses their hands extensively in handling tools, especially those that vibrate, should be able to have medical expenses for treating or diagnosing such problems covered through workers’ compensation benefits.
A work-related condition that takes a long time to develop could be challenging to address through the claims process for workers’ compensation. In the case of an individual who no longer works in construction or manufacturing, legal advice might be necessary to determine how to file for benefits.