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Law sets Limits for Vibration Exposure

Risk from Vibration Too Significant to Ignore


Vibration exposure from prolonged and regular work with powered hand-held tools, equipment or processes can have adverse effects on the hands and arms of users. Without effective controls, workers using such equipment may suffer various forms of damage, collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndromes’ (HAVS). This is a painful condition and the effects can include impaired blood circulation, damage to the nerves and muscles, and loss of ability to grip properly. The best known form of damage is ‘vibration white finger’ (VWF), which is a prescribed industrial disease.

 

Legislation now requires any employer who carries out work which is liable to expose any of his employees to risk from vibration to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk.

 

In conducting the risk assessment, the employer shall assess daily exposure to vibration by

means of:-

  • observation of specific working practices;
  • reference to relevant information on the probable magnitude of the vibration corresponding to the equipment used in the particular working conditions; and
  • if necessary, measurement of the magnitude of vibration to which his employees are likely to be exposed.

The employer shall assess whether any employees are likely to be exposed to vibration at or above a pre-determined exposure level. The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action in order to control exposure. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce the risk.

 

For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5m/s² A(8). (A(8) = Eight hour day, time weighted average). If this value is exceeded employers must introduce a programme of controls to eliminate risk (or reduce exposure to a level as is reasonably practicable) as well as providing health surveillance (regular health checks) to those employees who continue to be regularly exposed above the action value or otherwise continue to be at risk.

 

The exposure limit value is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. The ELV is a daily exposure of 5m/s² A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed. Immediate action must be taken in order to reduce the exposure level below the limit value.

 

Vibration can be reduced or eliminated in a number of ways, and should include the consideration of:

  • other working methods which eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration;
  • choice of work equipment of appropriate ergonomic design which, taking account of the work that has to be done, produces the least possible vibration;
  • the provision of auxiliary equipment which reduces the risk of injuries caused by vibration;
  • appropriate maintenance programmes for work equipment, the workplace and workplace systems;
  • the design and layout of workplaces, work stations and rest facilities;
  • suitable and sufficient information and training for employees, such that work equipment may be used correctly and safely, in order to minimise their exposure to vibration;
  • limitation of the duration and magnitude of exposure to vibration;
  • appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods; and
  • the provision of clothing to protect employees from cold and damp.