Vibration hazards

Vibration hazards transmitted through the hands and arms can cause damage to the nerves, blood supply and soft tissues or joints of the hand, wrist and arm if it is prolonged. The risk is associated with the level of vibration and the length of exposure (dose).

The vibration may come from hand-held or hand-guided power tools, or from holding a ‘job’ which is being tooled by a fixed power tool such as a bench grinder.

It is important to assess the risk in accordance with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations to determine the level of vibration. Some tools reach the exposure limit value (ELV) in as little as 5 minutes exposure per day or less.

Support is available with HAVS risk assessments if required. We will work with you to identify a programme of risk management through reduction of vibration exposure, tool selection, maintenance, efficiency and ergonomic considerations and where appropriate, health surveillance.

If individuals are exposed to levels of vibration above the exposure action level, 2.5m/sor 100 exposure points per day, they may be at risk. Some employees who are vulnerable to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome may be affected at levels as low as 1m/s2 or 40 exposure points per day.

Symptoms of Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) can include:

  • tingling and numbness in the fingers,
  • loss of sensation in the fingers – the ability to feel small objects may be affected and
  • loss of strength in the hands – the ability to grip heavy objects or apply force through the hands may be affected.

In the cold and wet, the tips of the fingers going white then red and being painful on recovery (vibration white finger).

If affected individuals continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:

  • the numbness in the hands could become permanent and they won’t be able to feel things at all,
  • they will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails,
  • the vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of their fingers.

Vibration exposure is subject to the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. Health surveillance is a statutory requirement for those exposed to the Exposure Action Value.

In addition to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome is another health hazard associated with vibration. It is important to consider the ergonomics of work involving vibration to reduce the risks from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome as well as HAVS.

If an employee is diagnosed with HAVS it must be reported to the HSE in accordance with the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations.

Is health surveillance required?

Health surveillance is required for vibration hazards where:

The Faculty of Occupational Medicine and HSE have defined specific standards for those undertaking these clinical assessments. Peritus Health Management’s clinicians are qualified and competent to carry out these assessments.

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“We have been working with Peritus for a number of years. Most of our guys don’t get to visit their GPs often, this service bridges that gap from our experience we have been able to help many of our people seek further medical assistance which could have been missed.”

SHE Manager, Utilities Company, Yorkshire & Northamptonshire

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