In safe hands

16 June 2021

HAVi Technologies’ Gregg Cole explores the risks of Hand Arm Vibration and how your business can comply.

MANY HSM readers will be well aware of the symptoms and causes of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which can present itself following over exposure to vibration, but it is still extremely common for businesses not to have adequate monitoring in place for operatives using powered equipment.

In October 2020 HAVi conducted a survey in partnership with Rail Technology Magazine and Network Rail. The responses revealed that nearly half of the respondents (45%) were either unaware of the risks or not recording exposure when using high vibration tools and equipment.

One of the core reasons given for not recording HAVs exposure data was due to the perceived additional workload that it can create, especially when using a paper-based system that relies on data being input separately. From HAVi’s experience this is not an uncommon perception, and it is one that is preventing businesses taking steps to protect operatives.

HAVs monitoring and recording has historically been a laborious and mainly paper based procedure, with managers recording the data but struggling to implement change with the information they have been presented with. Managing HAVs is more than simply measuring vibration; it needs to be about using data to generate insights, which in turn influence specific actions, which improve health outcomes. This is where integrated solutions and cloud-based software systems have become invaluable. These types of solutions help to make compliance effortless for both the operative and for the organisational management. 

Effectively monitor HAVS?

There are two exposure values that have been outlined by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, these are ‘action’ and ‘limit’ values, it is these values that businesses need to ensure are not exceeded.

Exposure action value (EAV) is the level at which the employer is required to take action. The exposure limit value (ELV) represents the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on a single day. Simply staying beneath these exposures does not mean a business is compliant with the law, vibration needs to be reduced to ‘as low as reasonably practicable and there are simple solutions such as job rotation, sourcing of tools with lower vibration magnitudes or changing operating methods. 

Long-term prevention needs to focus on an understanding of the action needed to prevent exceeding EAV and ELV values, by understanding the risks within your workforce via the risk assessment procedure. 

The foundation of any HAVs management strategy is a robust and comprehensive Risk Assessment. The quality of any Risk Assessment is determined by the accuracy of the data on which it is based. In the case of HAVs, the most important data to collect is the vibration magnitude of the tools in use. This can be done effectively using online databases such as or alternatively, vibration magnitudes can be measured on site. The most important element to remember is that any tool vibration data used must be accredited to the relevant British Standards. A reliance on data not collected to these standards could leave your business exposed.

The completed Risk Assessment, alongside the accredited vibration magnitude data will then allow you to create a plan for monitoring and management of your workforce. This will likely include on-tool trigger timers and typically wearable devices that aggregate vibration exposure where an operative used multiple tools in a shift. A paperless solution coupled with Insight-led, cloud based software solutions will effortlessly allow your organisation to focus in on the improvement areas which will have the greatest impact on hand health outcomes and make compliance easy to demonstrate.

Frequently asked questions

What is hand arm vibration syndrome?

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a serious and disabling condition with more than two million people at risk in the UK alone. The condition occurs when vibration, generated by regular use of powered tools and machinery, is transmitted to the hands and arms of operatives. Symptoms can include pins and needles, numbness and reduced dexterity and grip.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations were introduced in 2005 to limit workers’ exposure to vibration.

What are your obligations as an employer?

The latest data suggests that almost half of all ill-health related RIDDORs issued by the HSE relate to HAVs. Coupled with the increase in high profile prosecutions and with settlement figures approaching seven figures.
In order to remain compliant with regulations, you need to be able to identify the tools, operatives and processes that are creating areas of risk to be able to take appropriate corrective action.

Is it necessary to continuously monitor workers’ exposure?

There is no legal requirement for continual monitoring of vibration exposure. To do so is probably not a good use of yours or your employees’ time, unless there are very specific circumstances, (e.g. The task creates very high vibration exposure or the operator has already been identified as having symptoms of HAVs).

What you must do is find out what your workers are being exposed to through a vibration risk assessment. This will involve you understanding how long workers use particular tools for throughout a typical day or week. The HAVi System helps you do this. Once you know the exposure levels and whether it is likely to exceed the EAV or ELV, you can then focus on taking practical steps to reduce the risk. HAVi recommends sample monitoring each operative and each tool for a period of four weeks once per year.

Is simply staying beneath the Exposure level (EAV/ELV) sufficient for compliance?

If your workers’ exposure is below the limit, it does not mean you have complied with the law, or done enough to protect workers health. A fundamental requirement as stated in the regulations is that exposure should be reduced to ‘as low as reasonably practicable’.

Restricting exposure to just below the EAV may still result in workers developing HAVS. If the exposure to your workers exceeds the EAV (100pts), it is wise to review and create a plan for doing the work in a different way. Many businesses implement job rotation or carry out a full and thorough review of the tools they use; this usually exposes a number of high vibration tools, which can be easily switched for more efficient versions. 

When is it advisable to have on-going monitoring of workers?

If a workers’ task involves using high vibration tools and the ELV can be reached quickly, monitoring continually would be advisable. Setting a stop limit of 100pts before they must change their task would be sensible. If a worker following medical advice must have restrictions placed on their exposure, continual monitoring would ensure this lower level was never exceeded (this must always be recorded & archived).

Accredited tool data – what is it and why is it important?

Any vibration magnitude data that is used to form the basis of a Risk Assessment must be taken in accordance with BS EN ISO 8041 & BS EN ISO 5349. If your tool magnitude data has not been collected to these standards (which include specific reference to the types of device used to take the readings), your business could be left exposed. 

About HAVi

HAVi Technologies helps businesses improve hand health by minimising the risks of exposure to vibration.

HAVi’s solutions record, inform and provide insights, with real-time alerts of exposure breeches. Its products include an easy to install Trigger Timer Unit, which attaches to powered tools to monitor and record exposure. A Bluetooth enabled smart watch provides the operative with updates of potential breeches, and HAVi’s cutting edge cloud-based software ties everything together providing managers with insight and data to quickly identify emerging risks, highlighting exceptions and trends whilst completely removing the need for paper-based reporting.

The HAVi Integrated Solution is proven to help businesses comply with the Control of Vibration at Work Act and has been independently audited to HSE standards.

Gregg Cole is managing director at HAVi Technologies. For more information, visit