Exposure to hand–arm vibration and its effects on workers at a mine rock drill repair and maintenance workshop
Visagie, Daniël Petrus
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In many occupations, exposure to hand-transmitted vibration (HTV) over a prolonged period causes various disorders involving the vascular, neural and musculoskeletal systems, collectively known as the hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). It is a complex and potentially disabling chronic disorder of the upper extremities, especially of the hands. Numbness, tingling, reduced tactile discrimination, and impaired manipulative dexterity are often reported by workers exposed to HTV. The precise pathophysiological mechanism responsible for vascular injuries in HAVS has not yet been fully clarified; it seems to be multifactorial and highly complex. Interaction of neural signals, hormones, mediators and changes in the blood vessel itself appear to contribute to the development of such vascular injuries. This study aims to assess the risk of the hand-transmitted vibration exposure during pneumatic impact wrench operation in a rock drill repair and maintenance workshop at a South African platinum mine. A total of 8 workers working on a day to day basis with impact wrenches were available for this study. For each of the workers a control (not exposed to vibration) was selected on the basis of gender, ethnic group, smoking habits, age and body mass index (BMI). Grip force, dexterity and hand-eye co-ordination were tested on the workers and control group before and after work. Finger systolic blood pressure (FSBP) was also measured after cold provocation of the worker and control groups. Results have shown astatistically significant difference between the two groups with respect coordination, dexterity and FSBP after cold provocation. Vibration measurements shows three workers had values above the suggested ELV of 5 m/s² for an eight hour A (8) workday. With regards to dexterity, workers were capable to manipulate small objects better with their dominant right (vibration exposed) hand after work than before work. In contrast, it seems that the number of pegs correctly inserted by the controls is not uniformly affected by their 8 hour workday. The worker group showed a greater grip force than that of the control group, both before and after work.There was a statistically significant difference between the control and worker group with respect to the number of mistakes during the mirror trace and the time to complete this test only for the right hand. The difference in FSBP after cold provocation between the control and worker group observed is of medium importance when compared with effect sizes, however, there was no statistical significant difference. In this study, it was very difficult to make valid conclusions due to the limitations of a small sample size. A longitudinal study should be conducted preferably using newly appointed workers with no prior exposure to vibration and a sufficient control group to eliminate the effect other confounding variables such as general working conditions.
- Health Sciences