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Vibration and workplace injuries in California

While most California employees are probably aware of the possibility of having a workplace accident and becoming injured, they may not first think of the types of injuries they might suffer due to long-term exposure to vibration in the workplace. Vibration injuries, however, are a very real and documented type of workplace injury, commonly affecting people who use power tools as a part of their daily jobs.

According to medical experts, vibration injuries result from two broad types of exposure, either hand-arm or whole-body vibration. A common injury type that can result from hand-arm vibration exposure is carpal tunnel syndrome. Hand-arm vibration can kill nerve endings in the area, causing increasing difficulty for the worker in his or her ability to grip.

Whole-body vibration can cause low back injury and overall pain. The way in which vibration exposure can lead to injury is that vibration decreases the blood flow to the extremities, resulting in cellular death in the location. In addition to nerves, vascular systems may also be damaged as a result of long-term vibration exposure.

Workplace injuries are far more common than most people are aware of. Some, like vibration injuries, occur slowly, resulting from exposure over long periods of time. People who have suffered a workplace injury are in most cases entitled to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits. Employers in California are mandated to provide such coverage in order to protect workers in the event they are injured while on the job. In some cases, the employer or the carrier might dispute the validity of the claim. If that happens, the worker will need to be prepared with medical documentation clearly outlining how the injury resulted.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "Vibration Hazards in the Workplace: The Basics of Risk Assessment", Rob Brauch, Feb. 1, 2015

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