If you use any kind of vibrating machinery at work, you should be aware of The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. The purpose of the regulations is to make sure workers dont suffer ill health from vibration.
Much of the regulation covers workplace hand-arm vibration but effects of whole-body vibration are also covered.
About the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations
As part of a general health and safety remit an EU directive required each member country to pass laws that protect workers from the effects of vibration.
The law, applies only to work situations and is therefore classed under the term Occupational Health. It is not relevant to the general public engaged in non-work activities.
The aims of the regulations are to stop health risks caused by hand-arm and whole body vibration. Hand arm vibration diseases are often suffered by people who use hand held machinery at work. Due to the variety of hand tools that vibrate, there is potential for this syndrome in many sectors including gardening, building, joinery, and metalworking.
Whole-body vibration is sometimes suffered by drivers of large machines or vehicles that vibrate or are driven over rough and uneven surfaces as a main part of their job.
Limits to Vibration Exposure
The regulations give technical limits to the exposure of workers to vibration.
The first of these is an exposure action value. The regulations set this at 2.5m/s2 A(8). Once a piece of machinery or tool reaches this limit, employers must reduce workers exposure to vibration. They should do this by making technical changes and by managing the work environment more effectively.
The second technical limit is an exposure limit value. This is 5.0m/s2. Employers must never exceed this.
Advice for Employers
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has issued advice to employers about the hazards of vibration at work and how to control them. The advice applies to every employer who has a business that uses hand-held or hand-guided machines, powered equipment and power tools.
Employers need to be aware that the regular use of vibrating equipment can lead to health problems. Doctors refer to some of these problems as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Hand-arm vibration can also cause disease, including carpal tunnel syndrome. A risk assessment should be conducted on the types of tools used in the workplace, and compliance with the control of vibration at work regulations should be considered.
To avoid health problems, employers should keep an eye open for symptoms of vibration injury among their workers. The earlier an employer spots these, the better.
Such symptoms include:-
- Lack of feeling in fingers and hands.
- Numbness and tingling in fingers.
- Loss of strength in hands; and fingers turning white then red.
Some workers experience these symptoms after exposure to vibration for just a matter of months. Other workers dont have the symptoms for years. If neglected, the symptoms can be permanent.
If workers complain of pain in their fingers and hands, inability to sleep, clumsiness with their fingers, lack of strength in their hands, or whitening of fingers particularly in cold and damp weather, they may be over-exposed to vibration.
Duty of Care
Employers have a duty of care to ensure that using vibrating tools and machinery does not affect employee health. Failure to consider this can leave the business open to legal action and claims for compensation.
Advice for Workers
Workers who use machines and power tools should take note of the above symptoms. If they detect any symptoms, they should report the matter to their employers and consult a doctor.
General advice is to use only well maintained tools and equipment, and not to use the same tool for a prolonged time. Workers should also keep their blood circulating by staying warm and dry wherever possible, and by exercising their fingers throughout the day.