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ASA questions HAVWEAR’s credibility

30 April 2019

WRIST-MOUNTED vibration measurement has come under criticism and the Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a subsequent complaint by the manufacturer.

The unconventional methodology used by Reactec’s HAVWEAR has come under fire and in May 2018 the Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre(INVC) published a comprehensive critique of wrist-worn vibration transducers, including two explosive statements:

  1. “… as wrist (or glove) mounted transducers do not measure according to ISO/BS 5349, the data they produce is not related to the EAV or the ELV dose values and cannot be used for comparison with them in a risk assessment. Those are the facts. This could not be clearer…”

  2. “Now imagine you are the barrister for a HAV injury claimant … just how easy would you find it to drive a coach and horses through a risk management defence based on wrist-mounted vibration data capture? Potentially a very costly mistake …”

As the manufacturer of HAVWEAR (the only product which uses this methodology), Reactec objected to this potentially damaging narrative byfiling a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) on the grounds that the statements were misleading and could not be substantiated.

On 3 April 2019, ASA rejected Reactec’s complaint - effectively ruling that the INVC statements were NOT misleading and COULD be substantiated. The full ASA ruling is available here: https://www.asa.org.uk/rulings/industrial-noise---vibration-centre-ltd-a18-452950.html

Crucially, in coming to their decision, ASA sought guidance from HSE, who confirmed that, “measurements taken elsewhere, including the wrist, would not provide the data required by the Standard or the Regulations.”

In their ruling, ASA stated that, “we had seen evidence that wrist mounted transducers did not measure hand–arm vibration in accordance with the Standard, did not provide ELV or EAV data that was required by the Regulations and were not therefore suitable for risk assessments of hand–arm vibration, as set out by the Regulations”.

HSE had further input in relation to INVC’s statement about a barrister driving “a coach and horses through a risk management defence based on wrist-mounted vibration data capture”. According to the ASA ruling, “They [HSE] said that as any risk assessment had to be suitable and sufficient, there was a requirement for exposure to hand–arm vibration to be evaluated in accordance with the procedures set out in law. Such procedures included measuring the acceleration of the surface of the tool in contact with the hand."

In response Reactec CEO Jacqui McLaughlin said: “This is a complex but fundamentally important area of employee health and safety and it is frustrating that those with a commercial interest who wish to discredit wrist worn devices ignore the fact that Reactec’s HAVwear offers a mode (referred to as TEP) which fully complies with regulations and HSE guidance, and is available in addition to the real use assessment, developed for individual's protection.

"The ASA’s judgement was in no way a comment on the HAVwear’s credibility but a judgement on our objection to the INVC published opinions on the use of HAVwear to perform a risk assessment in compliance with the ISO5349 standard. Risk assessments fully in compliance with ISO5349 are intermittent activities which yield a view of what risk someone may face when they subsequently carry out the activity. HAVwear is not promoted for this purpose. It is promoted to provide everyday assessment of HAV exposure risk, for which there is no current standard. The HSE advise within L140 that the vibration magnitude needed for a HAV exposure assessment, need not be measured, but must be representative of the real-time activity undertaken. There is an increasing body of International and independent evidence validating that HAVwear's real-use approach to assessing HAV exposure, while novel, is a true reflection of health risk.

"We all know the impact that Vibration White Finger has on the lives of the 300,000 people in the UK alone who live with this debilitating and permanent condition. With a further 2 million* people at risk of HAVS, the Reactec team intends to focus our efforts on helping industry to assess and mitigate the risk that these people face."