23 Oct 2023
October is National Safe Work Month in Australia and with zero harm being central to the Applied Ultrasonics ethos, we wanted to shine light on risk, and how we are contributing to moving industry towards safer work practices.
Vibration-induced white finger (VWF), also known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger, is a secondary form of Raynaud's syndrome, an industrial injury triggered by continuous use of vibrating hand-held machinery. The term vibration white finger was introduced by the Industrial Injury Advisory Council in 1970 and has mostly been superseded in professional usage by the broader concept of HAVS, although it is still used by the general public.
HAVS is an internationally recognized industrial disease affecting tens of thousands of workers. It is a disorder that affects the blood vessels, nerves, muscles, and joints of the hand, wrist, and arm. Vibration-induced white finger is the most common effect of HAVS and can occur at frequencies between 5 and 2000 Hz but the greatest risk for fingers is between 50 and 300 Hz. Industry standard ISO 5349-1 stipulates maximum damage can occur between 8 and 16 Hz and there is a rapidly declining risk at higher frequencies (such as those characteristic of ultrasonic peening processes).
Peening, which is a commonly used preventative and reactive maintenance measure, is a task that can present significant risk of white finger and HAVS. Briefly defined, peening is a process that is used on welded structures to manage crack propagation post the welding process. It can extend the fatigue life of the structure and should be a key part of any structural weld repair. There are various forms of peening available, with pneumatic and ultrasonic applications being amongst the most popular. Comparative studies support ultrasonic peening as being far more effective, compliant and most importantly, safer for the user.
Notably, a competing pneumatic peening device available on the market recognises that their machine can cause white finger and as a result of the vibrational stress on the operator, the published user instructions for the machine warn against using it for more than just 20 minutes per day.
The advanced Ultrasonic Impact Technology (UIT) that Applied Ultrasonics uses to achieve fatigue life improvement has no history of causing white finger, can be run safely for a 12-hour shift and therefore eliminates this risk to your employees and the business.
Our machine is ergonomically designed with operator safety front of mind and is intended to be used comfortably for longer periods of time. Harnessing the unique power of ultrasonics, rather than the brute impact of pneumatic peening, we’re able to adopt a process that considerably lowers vibration and noise exposure. Specifically, UK Regulation and Standards testing shows that pneumatic peening has a vibrational magnitude of 30m/s2rms, which compares poorly to a significantly lower 4.2 m/s2 rms for ultrasonic peening.
Reducing vibration is key to operator comfort, but also to reduce the incidence of long-term health effects related to prolonged exposure to harmful hand-arm vibration as explored above. Seeking alternatives for equipment in your business’ toolkit that causes HAVS is imperative to reduction of harm in the workplace.
Secondary to employee wellbeing, adopting safer practices can also alleviate the financial burden of injury.
WorkSafe QLD notes the total cost to an organisation, family and community after a hazardous manual task injury is significant. The accumulative costs of lost time, nursing, recruitment, productivity and retraining can see the total impact of a single case climbing to over $55,000, per claim
It is becoming part of every business’ corporate social responsibility to ensure employees are going home from work safely, every day. So, you must ask yourself, are you using the safest processes available to you and your team?
The onus is on every business decision-maker to align the actions of their organisation with the goal of zero harm. If manual task injuries are threatening your operator’s safety, or you just want to be proactive in your approach to employee wellbeing, we’d love to show you the UIT difference and help you move towards a safer future for your team.