BACKGROUND Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a relatively common occupational disease, especially in certain industrial sectors. Affected workers in many jurisdictions are eligible for compensation, but little is known about the behaviour and characteristics of workers seeking compensation for HAVS. AIMS To characterize the workers seeking compensation for HAVS based on demographics, occupation and disease characteristics. METHODS All accepted claims for HAVS from 1999 to 2008 in British Columbia were reviewed. RESULTS The average claimant was 50 years old and had worked 25 years. The average latency period for developing HAVS symptoms was 18 years, and half the number of symptomatic workers waited 5 years or more before filing a claim. Loggers developed symptoms, on average, after 17 years of exposure, significantly earlier than mechanics, who developed symptoms after 24 years of work. Loggers waited longer than mechanics to file claims, with a median delay of 6 years, compared with 3 years for mechanics. The majority of HAVS claims involved severer vascular and sensorineural symptoms. CONCLUSIONS Claimants commonly delay filing compensation claims and this may result in severer symptoms when the claims are filed. Further study is required to explain this delay.