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'Inevitable' vibration and noise health effects

15 May 2019

HEALTH RISKS to workers caused by excessive noise and vibration exposure will be addressed at an upcoming conference organised by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) on Thursday 16 May.

Health risks to workers caused by excessive noise and vibration exposure will be addressed at an upcoming conference organised by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) on Thursday 16 May.

Nearly 2 million people in the UK are at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) from excessive vibration exposure caused by the equipment they use at work.

Whole-body Vibration (WBV) is also a significant hazard where ride-on machinery is used regularly.

However, under-reporting of injuries and ill health is common across many industries, with many workers expressing the view that developing health issues such as HAVS are an ‘inevitable’ part of their role - often leaving the job when their hands and fingers become too painful or cannot grip.

A number of heavy fines have been imposed on local authorities and other bodies where significant numbers of workers have suffered life-changing, debilitating injuries as a result of carrying out work where noise and vibration exposure is a risk, such as grounds maintenance.

IOSH’s Rural Industries Group, working in collaboration with the IOSH Chiltern Branch, has organised the conference, titled ‘Shake, rattle and roll! Managing noise and vibration in practice’, to help delegates fully understand and comply with the legal requirements on noise and hand-arm and WBV.

Chair of the IOSH Rural Industries Group and a member of IOSH Chiltern Branch Committee Alan Plom said, “Around two million people are estimated to be at risk from vibration in the UK and reported cases of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) are increasing. HAVS comes from the use of hand-held power tools and is the cause of significant ill-health, including painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints. 

“We also have a long way to go to raise awareness and improve management of Whole-body Vibration (WBV) as this is seen as even more difficult to tackle.

 “There is significant under-reporting of injuries and ill health across a range of industries.  Many affected workers also traditionally leave their roles, accepting that HAVS is inevitable, so this could be the tip of the iceberg.

“Due to the typically high exposure levels, even relatively short durations can affect operator’s health. This is likely to include volunteers - so anyone allocating and managing the use of hand-held machines need to consider exposure to HAV and noise.”

Chair of IOSH Chiltern Branch & IOSH Vice-President Louise Hosking said, “We still come across organisations where workers are using tools and equipment who really do not understand the disabling effects of vibration injury, they do not know where to start in introducing controls and often simple measures can reduce risk significantly. The effects of noise and vibration injury do not have to be inevitable for future generations.

“This will be a very practical day with lots of opportunities to ask questions and watch practical demonstrations in the wonderful setting of Shuttleworth House. It’s great to be working alongside the Rural Industry Group again. Together we guarantee a thought provoking, informative day.”

The conference will explore associated risks and practical management methods in a range of industries, including construction, heritage and wildlife organisations, as well as grounds maintenance, and others where similar methods of measurement and control may be used.

The event is aimed at those involved in managing operators and machinery directly, commissioning contractors or advising businesses and organisations involved in a wide range of sectors.

The conference will feature a series of lectures and demonstrations to be presented by HSE specialist inspectors, leading industry managers, trainers and OHS practitioners, describing good practice and practical control and measurement of noise and vibration, using a range of typical grounds maintenance and construction machinery.

‘Shake, rattle and roll! Managing noise and vibration in practice’ takes place on Thursday 16 May 2019 at the The Shuttleworth Trust, The House, Old Warden, Biggleswade, Beds, SG18 9EA, 09.15–15.45.