Lawford Kidd, Personal Injury Solicitors

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The Link Between Raynaud’s Disease & Vibration White Finger

October is upon us, and the Raynaud’s Disease Association have made this month Raynaud’s Awareness Month.

What is Raynaud’s Disease?

Raynaud’s disease, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon, Raynaud’s syndrome or simply Raynaud’s, is when either cold or stress affects the blood flow to your extremities. The condition can also affect your ears, nose and lips. Its name comes from French doctor Maurice Raynaud, who discovered the disease.

What happens?

Your extremities (such as your fingers or your ears) turn white because the cold has affected the blood supply to the area. They will also start to turn blue as your blood vessels constrict, meaning that there is a lack of oxygen being supplied to the area too. Your nails can also become brittle and develop ridges. The symptoms can last from a few minutes up to several hours.

What treatments are available?

There are no known prescribed drugs for this disease. If you have it, you are advised to wear warm clothes, buy a pocket heater (such as a hand-warmer that you can microwave) and use over the counter ointments. People who have Reynaud’s often have to wear gloves indoors, and can be in pain from the cold as well as getting skin discolouration.

According to the US Raynaud’s Association, around five to ten per cent of Americans (15 to 30 million people) have the disease. However, it is estimated that around 80% of those affected don’t know they have it and may simply think that they just get cold easily. The condition is nine times more likely to affect women, and if you do smoke, the condition will get worse, so it is best to stop smoking altogether.

Categories of Raynaud’s Disease

There are two main types of Raynaud’s Disease. The first type, primary Raynaud’s, is not linked to any other medical condition, whereas secondary Raynaud’s is associated with another disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Why is awareness important?

It is important to get the condition diagnosed as you risk damaging your blood vessels in the long term if it is left untreated. A blood test at your GP can determine if you have Reynaud’s.

What is the link to Reynaud’s and Vibration White Finger?

Vibration white finger, also known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or dead finger syndrome, is an industrial disease triggered by repeated use of vibrating machinery, such as chainsaws and drills. It is linked to Raynaud’s syndrome because it is viewed as a secondary form of the condition, as Raynaud’s symptoms will develop alongside the numbness and tingling sensation that vibration white finger syndrome causes.

However, in some cases, you can get hand arm vibration syndrome even if you don’t have the symptoms associated with vibration white finger (VWF). Read our summary on vibration white finger here.

What are the symptoms of the disease?

The two main early features of the disease are tingling sensation in your fingers similar to pins and needles or numbness. You can also get muscular aches and pains. If the numbness develops and does not really go away, you may have difficulty doing everyday tasks, such as buttoning and unbuttoning clothing and handling money. This will also affect your ability to work with equipment.

How can the development of VWF be prevented?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that nearly two million people are at risk of developing the decease. They publish good practice guidelines for employers and advise employers of their obligations under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

Obligations upon employers within these regulations include making sure that their employees are given information about the initial symptoms to mitigate the risk of developing the disease, and giving appropriate training to their employees.

Employers must act if their employees are exposed to a certain amount of vibration daily. This is known as the exposure action value (EAV). There is also a limit, and employers must make sure that their workers never exceed that limit. This is known as the exposure limit value (ELV).

Employers must also do risk assessments of their workplaces to determine the exposure their workers will face.

What kinds of equipment can cause vibration white finger?

Many different types of equipment can trigger the disease. The most well known equipment includes:

  • Hand held grinders
  • Polishers
  • Chainsaws
  • Drills
  • Powered lawn mowers
  • Leaf blowers
  • Strimmers

Those who work in construction or maintenance are more likely to develop it.

Why is it important to know about?

As HSE state, “HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent”. In July 2015, a company that maintained facilities was fined for not having measures in place to prevent a worker from developing HAVS. The worker, who used lawnmowers and strimmers to maintain properties, was regularly working above HSE’s recommended Exposure Limit Value and Exposure Action Value. The company also failed to take action when the worker mentioned his health was affected.

What other laws are in place in Scotland?

As well as the Regulations governing exposure to vibrations, your employer also owes a duty of care to you. First enshrined in law by the infamous “Paisley snail” case of Donoghue v Stevenson, if a person acts negligently, either through an action or failure to act (also known as an omission), when they owe you a duty of care and cause you harm as a result, then you can claim for any loss they have caused you to suffer. In the case of an employer, it is easier to establish that they owe you a duty of care, as you will spend your working day there.

In some extreme cases, an employer could also be criminally liable.

So when making a personal injury claim, our solicitors at Lawford Kidd will use a combination of the common law (such as a duty of care) and statutory law to prove your case.

What can Lawford Kidd do to help?

Given the vast amount of machinery used in different industries, exposure to possible development of this condition is in more places than you would think. Vibration white finger and Raynaud’s disease can be debilitating and can stop you from leading a normal life.

If you think you have a claim, make sure you pursue it as soon as possible – there is a time limit of three years on claims.

With over fifteen years’ experience in personal injury, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. You get 100% of what you are entitled to and unlike claims companies, a fully qualified solicitor will be with you every step of the way. Our approach is to understand the person behind the claim and guide you through the legal jargon, as you can see from our case studies. We know that court can be stressful, and we will settle out of court for you if that will be your best possible deal.

If you suffer from an industrial disease triggered by repeated use of vibrating machinery, you could be looking at around £2000 to £9000 in compensation. We will always put you first, and are highly commended in both the Legal 500 and the Chambers Directory. Contact us today on 0808 115 3364 or using our online form, and we will help you get your life back on track.

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