Can high tech gloves protect you from White Finger Syndrome?
10th April 2017
At RIFT, we often talk about the costs of repairing and replacing essential tools. In construction, these are the necessary costs of doing your job, and can be a big part of your tax refunds claim. The thing is, your most important tools can't be replaced. In some cases, they can't even be repaired. Consider your hands, for example, and the damage a working life in construction can do to them.
A typical day on a construction site has a number of obvious risks to it. There are bulky loads, dangerous heights and heavy machinery to contend with. Any of these dangers has the capacity to cause sudden, lasting harm. However, good training and having your wits about you can keep you safe. What you don't notice so much are the smaller things; the little risks that creep up on you over time. Some of these can end careers before you realise it, and potentially change your life forever.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), also known as vibration white finger (VWF), is a nasty piece of work. At its least severe, it can cause numbness and tingling sensations due to nerve and blood vessel damage. You might notice your fingers changing colour in the cold or wet. Worse cases could see you losing strength, feeling or even entire fingers. The symptoms might start to set in slowly, but if you ignore them the nerve and muscle damage could be permanent.
HAVS is the result of exposure to vibrations over a long period of time. The more severe the vibrations, the less time they take to do irreparable damage. Concrete breakers, powered sanders and even basic hammer drills can cause HAVS if you use them enough. The bottom line is that vibrations are bad news over the long term, and you need to protect yourself.
Technology working hand-in-glove with construction
You might have heard of anti-vibration gloves, designed to absorb the shocks before they reach your hands. They're a decent idea in principle, but they have their problems. For one thing, they're really not that effective. In fact, in some cases they can even make the damage worse! A given glove can only insulate you from a limited range of frequencies. At lower levels than they're designed for, they can actually amplify the harmful vibrations. Ultimately, the only sure way to prevent HAVS is to limit the time you spend exposed to the damage. That's where the new "smart gloves" from Nottingham Trent University come in.
Instead of trying to protect your hands directly, this new system tries a different approach. The gloves are fitted with tiny sensors that detect vibrations and warn you when they're becoming dangerous. It's a question of prevention being better than cure - which is particularly true when the cure doesn't even exist. The e-gloves are under development now, meaning it'll probably be a while before we see them in widespread use. Until then, your best bet is still to be aware of the danger you're putting your hands in.
This isn't just the construction workers' concern, of course. Taking care of your workforce is just plain good for business. All over the construction industry, companies are finding ingenious ways of making the workplace safer and more efficient. When a company's pushing back boundaries like this, the government's R&D Tax Credits scheme wants to reward them for it. It's the biggest and most valuable incentive scheme of its kind, but not nearly enough claims are being made. You don't have to be changing the world to benefit from it, either. Solving problems to protect the people working for you is a great launch pad for an R&D Tax Credits claim. If you think something you've seen on your site could count for this, tell your manager, contractor or foreman to have a look at the link - it could mean a lot of money back for your company.
There's a lot RIFT can do to protect construction workers and their money.
- We can get your first PAYE tax refund for travel and expenses back for up to 4 years and sort it out time the new tax year ticks over
- We can claim your CIS rebate every year and the expertise of our dedicated CIS teams means you'll get the maximum refund possible.
- We can even make it pay to put thought and time into making your workplace a healthier place.
Not all of construction's dangers are clearly signposted but, when it comes to looking out for UK construction, RIFT is the safest pair of hands in the business.