The objective of this study was to investigate whether aesthesiometric threshold changes occur over the course of a workshift in vibration exposed hard rock miners relative to workers unexposed to vibration during the shift. The subjects were 99 miners and 40 smelter workers; four subjects declined to participate and nine were excluded from the analysis because of apparent failure to comprehend the testing procedure. Two point discrimination and depth sense aesthesiometry were conducted at the beginning and at the end of the workshift in all digits of both hands excluding the thumbs. In addition to the use of a vibrating tool during the shift, age, digital temperature, signs of arm injury, presence of fingertip callus, and handedness were documented. In the analysis the difference between postshift and preshift readings was studied in relation to these variables, particularly exposure to the jackleg drill during the shift. With the exception of exposure of the jackleg drill, no associations were observed between these variables and change over the workshift in aesthesiometric results, on both unadjusted comparison of means and backward elimination regression analysis. A statistically significant association, however, was found between the use of a jackleg drill and change in two point discrimination and in depth sense aesthesiometric results over the course of the shift, for the right hand. Evidence of the occurrence of a learning effect, particularly for two point discrimination aesthesiometry, was observed. The occurrence of an effect in the right, but not the left, hand reflects dominant handedness and relatively greater vibration exposure in the right hand in our subjects. This study supports the incorporation of an exposure free interval before aesthesiometric testing of vibration exposed workers.
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