You might think the biggest danger of using a chainsaw would come from chainsaw accidents involving its teeth. But for regular chainsaw operators, there’s a different threat altogether, known as HAVS. To protect any chainsaw operator from long-term pain or damage, there is a range of PPE options and protective techniques to choose from, including anti-vibration gloves.
To understand what HAVS actually is, if it could affect you, and how you can protect yourself when using such power tools, here is a full guide on everything you need to know. Whether you work in construction, manage a team of people using such machinery, or come into contact with vibrating machinery regularly for any other reason, this is important information to know to protect yourself and those around you for years to come.
What is HAVS?
HAVS stands for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome. Often also diagnosed as white finger syndrome, vibration white finger, or carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms include a feeling of numbness, loss of dexterity or strength in the fingers, or a change in color in the worker’s fingers. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent nerve damage in less than six months because of the restricted blood flow.
At best, you would need to take a leave of absence from work and, at worst, be forced to quit your job entirely. That’s why it’s vital to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself from the very first time you start using a chainsaw.
This is where chainsaw gloves come into their own. Although some claim that anti-vibration gloves aren’t functional as chainsaw safety gloves, there are still industry experts who claim the exact opposite. If you’re starting a career where you’ll need to use a chainsaw regularly or perhaps are already experiencing symptoms of HAVS, they could be a smart investment.
What Are Anti-Vibration Chainsaw Gloves?
Anti-vibration chainsaw gloves are specially engineered to protect the user’s hands from the constant vibrations that come from using a chainsaw. The operator wears a chainsaw glove on both of their hands whenever they use a chainsaw to reduce the vibrations going into their hands and arms. This reduces the risk of ever developing HAVS and all the knock-on damage that comes with it.
The best chainsaw gloves often have rubber or goatskin leather palms, to create a cushioning effect between the user’s hands and the machine itself. Softening the vibrations in this way makes for a smoother experience when handling vibration machinery. The chainsaw gloves should also be thermal, water resistant, and cut resistant, so you don’t have to worry about them getting damaged on a heavy duty worksite.
How Do Anti-Vibration Gloves Work?
Years of testing have gone into making chainsaw gloves, testing different materials and their effects on the glove itself. Some brands now even include extra features to offer extra protection from the teeth of the chainsaw or gloves in high visibility colors to avoid accidents on a construction site.
A good pair of gloves should be made in a durable material, like goatskin leather or even kevlar. This makes sure that there are anti-abrasion as well. The gloves will absorb the tremors from the machinery you’re using, meaning fewer damaging vibrations ever even reach your hand or arm. They should also be malleable enough so you can still use your trigger finger and accurately work the machinery you’re using. There’s no point in protecting yourself from the vibrations of a chainsaw if you then go and cause an accident by not being able to use it correctly.
Should You Wear Anti-Vibration Gloves When Using a Chainsaw?
Chainsaws are one of the top offenders when it comes to HAVS, which is why it pays to make sure you’re equipped with the best chainsaw gloves possible. Although chainsaw gloves can be used for protection from other vibrating machinery as well, such as jackhammers, sanders, saws, and power drills, they’re designed with chainsaw use in mind. Most gloves made for use with chainsaws are non-slip and with added protection in case of an accident, so you’re protected from more than just the vibrations alone.
Having said that, although chainsaw gloves are a good measure to take to protect yourself from HAVS, they’re not the only step you should be taking. Investing in good-quality machinery is also one step in the right direction when it comes to hand protection, as many modern chainsaws come with built-in anti vibration reinforcement. Two forms of insurance are the best way to protect your hands and arms from HAVS.
Are Chainsaw Gloves Any Good?
Chainsaw gloves have been proven to be effective, but largely when used at the same times as other measures. They are part of a bigger solution for preventing HAVS, so are well worth buying if you work with a chainsaw regularly. Even so, don’t think of them as the only step you need to take; they work best as part of a holistic solution, so be sure to employ some of the other measures detailed below.
Just as with anything else, not all chainsaw gloves are made equal. Look for standardized regulations, such as the American National Standards Institute and the International Organization for Standardization. They have branded stamps that they allow producers to display on accredited equipment. If you can see their logo, you know you can trust the protection and quality of these tools and products.
Choosing the right anti-impact gloves is essential for any users wanting to keep their hands and arms safe from heavy duty vibrations in the long-term. Although you might be able to find a supposedly deal for work gloves, you don’t want to cut corners when it comes to the glove material or the levels of vibration reduction. Think of buying such tools as an investment in your future health and safety.
Tips for Reducing the Risk of HAVS
Chainsaw gloves work best when used in combination with other anti-HAVS measures. The condition is difficult to treat once you start experiencing symptoms, so employing as many different strategies as possible is definitely the way to go. Remember that your employer has a duty of care over you, so don’t be afraid of asking for breaks from using vibrating machinery if you need it. Explain the potential risks clearly and suggest a shift system, where every employee gets a regular break from using the saw or drill in question. If you can enact change across your entire workplace, all of your coworkers will be thanking you down the line! Plus, explain the situation well enough and maybe you can even persuade the company you work for to buy gloves for the whole team.
An obvious way of reducing the risk of HAVS is to reduce the amount of time you spend using vibrating machinery like chainsaws. However, that isn’t always possible for people who work in industries like construction, mining, mechanics, and so on. Even if you absolutely need to spend some time using such machinery, make sure to take regular breaks to give your body a break from the vibrations. If reducing your time spend on such machines isn’t an option, then getting high quality equipment is essential.
As noted above, modern machines often have safety standards that include vibration reduction technology. This technology, used in conjunction with protection gloves, will reduce the risk of HAVS and offer more protection to your hand and arms.
The final measure you can take to reduce the effects of vibrating machinery is to stay warm as much as possible. This will improve your blood circulation through your fingers and hands and reduce the damage done to your fingers and thumb. Just another reason why getting thermal and water repellent chainsaw gloves is a good idea.
HAVS can be a nasty condition for anyone to suffer from, so putting some strategically placed measures into action is always a smart idea. Once the damage is done, it’s hard to go back, so don’t waste time putting some of the tips and tricks from above into action. Sufferers of HAVS have been forced to stop working with such machines altogether, so if you value your job and want to continue in your role for years to come, it’s time to act now. Even if you aren’t feeling the effects already, act now to save yourself a lot of pain down the road.