Controlling vibration risk in the workplace
16 July 2019
VIBRATION IN the workplace is increasingly making the headlines as the consequences of years of unmanaged exposure come to the fore in terms of life-changing injuries and compensation pay-outs.
The UK is regulated by the Control of Vibration at Work 2005. The law requires employers to make sure risks from vibration are controlled; provide information and training to employees on the risks and actions being taken; and provide suitable health surveillance.
To remain compliant the workplace should be evaluated, but an understanding of the risks of vibration is needed as well as how they can be controlled and measured.
Hand-arm vibration (HAV) is vibration transmitted into workers’ hands and arms from hand-held power tools, hand-guided equipment or holding materials being worked by hand-fed machines. Symptoms include tingling and numbness in the fingers, loss of strength in the hands, reduced grip, hand and arm pain and ‘blanching’, where fingers go white and become red and painful on recovery.
Those at risk have jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating hand-held or hand-guided tools and equipment, such as drills, electric saws, grinders, sanders, lawnmowers, plate compactors and forge hammers.
The HSE website (www.hse.gov.uk) has a wealth of information and materials to help businesses fulfil their duty of care to employees. Accurate evaluation will often show that the operating time of equipment is actually very short and the EAV (exposure action value) is not being exceeded.
Following HSE guidance, manual assessments can be made by identifying the vibration magnitude value for individual tools from the manufacturer’s handbooks and using the HSE’s ‘ready reckoner’ Exposure Points System or Hand-arm Vibration Exposure calculator to work out exposure limits.
More advanced options include tool timers, such as the HAVi, which accurately records time spent on each tool and the time exposure calculations. Additionally, when used alongside the Svantek SV 106, it also gives very accurate individual tool vibration measurements.
Vibration dosemeters like Svantek’s SV 103 are also available, which use a tri-axial accelerometer to generate full reports on overall vibration exposures and integrate with the HSE points system for accurate risk monitoring. These are all cost-effective health surveillance measures starting from £65.
Practical ways to control HAV: Avoiding gripping tools harder than necessary; reducing exposure by doing other tasks in between; maintaining tools and checking for wear; ensuring cutting tools are sharp and efficient; using low-vibration tools.
Another risk is whole-body vibration (WBV), vibration transmitted through the feet of employees who stand on vibrating platforms, or through the legs and back via seats in mobile machinery or vehicles. Continuous vibration, large shocks and jolts can cause health risks including back pain.
Those at risk of WBV include drivers of certain tractors, mowers, fork lift trucks and earth-moving or quarrying machinery.
Vibration exposure meters, such as Svantek’s standalone wireless SV 100A, can be fitted to seats, seat backs or standing plates to accurately measure for assessment and reporting. They can also be used on a permanent basis to signal an alarm when vibration exposure limits are exceeded.
Hand-held whole-body vibration monitors like the SV 106 (which can also be used for hand-arm and tool vibration) are capable of monitoring the lower back and legs with the SV 100A.
Steps to help reduce WBV risk include: Good visibility without the operator having to twist or turn; easy access without the need to stretch or jump; and regular maintenance of vehicles including seats, suspension, and tyres. Further measures include: Spreading tasks over several days; sharing tasks between employees; adequate rest breaks; protection against cold and damp conditions; and changing site layouts to shorten driving times.
For any further information on vibration management in the workplace visit our web site or to discuss your requirements contact our sales team.