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Warning: Power Tool Hurt Hands

ATLANTA, GA (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- You might think cutting off your finger is the biggest risk of mixing power tools and do it yourself projects, but there’s another danger lurking in the workshop.

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Power tools, they’re every weekend warrior’s dream. Woodworking hobbyist Michael Kashon can’t work without them.

"I built beds for my kids and for my wife and a bar for the kitchen and I built a small sailboat." Kashon told Ivanhoe.

Power tools come in handy to get a job done, but physiologists with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health say using power tools for an extended period of time can cause damage to blood vessels and nerves in the hands. About 1 million construction workers and home improvement hobbyists report hand-arm vibration syndrome each year.

”They lose sensation, they end up with pain and the worst case scenarios they can actually end up losing fingertips because the circulation is so poor" Kristine Krajnak, PhD, physiologist at The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said.

To help workers and the ambitious do-it-yourselfer reduce the risks of hand tool injuries, researchers simulate tools in a lab to learn better how vibrations affect the body.

"We look at a lot of personal protective devices and how well they work, how well do they stop vibration from traveling to the hands and arms." Dr. Krainak said.

To test different kinds of anti-vibration gloves, a large shaker system simulates a vibrating hand tool. Workers hold a handle that can be vibrated at different amplitudes, how hard something shakes, and frequencies and how fast something shakes. Researchers then make recommendations to glove manufacturers on how to improve protective gear.

"When you’re using a glove be aware that you’re probably gripping a little harder than you need to, because gripping too hard can also cause some injury to the hands." Dr. Krainak said.

Researchers recommend wearing anti-vibration gloves with gel inserts or air bladders inside, you can buy them at home improvement stores or online, and take breaks.

"I work almost every day in the shop and sometimes I'll get a whole weekend in." Kashon said.

Helping workers and weekend warriors work pain-free. Hand tool injuries can also cause blanching of the fingers where fingers turn white and lose sensation.

The Factors and Ergonomics Society and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.

Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:

Dr. Kristine Krajnak
Biologist, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Lois Smith
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Santa Monica, CA 90406
(310) 394-1811

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Fred Blosser

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