Musculoskeletal disorders:
Vibration

Just one incident of exposure to severe vibration can cause injury or affect health – but it’s often exposure over a period of time which leads to long-term, and sometimes irreversible, problems.

Early symptoms of vibration-related illnesses include tingling and numbness of fingers, not being able to feel things properly, back pain, loss of strength in hands and fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery.

Employers and workers must be aware of these symptoms because they can lead to further issues, like sleep deprivation, reduced grip and an inability to do fine work.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations place responsibility on employers to control vibration hazards.

Vibration is often neglected in the workplace as the sources can be integral to a worker’s everyday role. For instance, some workers are exposed to whole-body vibration (WBV) on a regular basis by using mobile machines or vehicles. For others, using hand-held power tools could expose them to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Both types can cause debilitating health problems.

  • Make sure you understand your responsibilities under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations and you have a competent person completing the necessary risk assessment. In particular, ensure you understand what the exposure action values (EAV) and exposure limit values (ELV) are.

    - An in-house assessment is usually sufficient to complete the basic risk assessment and to decide whether the EAV or ELV are likely to be exceeded.

    - Duty holders are not automatically expected to make vibration measurements, unless it isn’t possible to properly assess the hazard. Technical measurement is complex, and specialised equipment needs to be used following the method defined in the relevant BS EN ISO standard.
  • Identify situations where the use of tools, equipment, plant or processes might expose individuals to vibration and include noise and vibration risk factors within a policy for the purchase, hire and use of tools, equipment, plant, machinery, etc.
  • Consult employees and safety representatives when assessing exposure to vibration.
  • Take all relevant factors into account when establishing control measures.
  • Provide health surveillance if regular daily exposure is likely to exceed the exposure action value (EAV). For hand-arm vibration, this is 2.5m/s2 (metres per second squared, aka the vibration magnitude).

    - This is recommended but not required for self-employed workers.
  • Make sure the exposure limit value (ELV) (maximum amount of exposure on any given day) is not exceeded by any workers.
  • Record significant findings of any vibration risk assessment and actions taken, such as what control measures have been put in place, and keep health records for employees under health surveillance.
  • Consider different work methods or tools to eliminate vibration exposure at the source.
  • Implement control measures that reduce vibration exposure to a minimum where it can’t be eliminated.
  • Provide employees with information and training about risks and controls available, such as personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Monitor, review and update the risk assessment regularly and whenever circumstances change.
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These issues and measures should be considered alongside and for the management of vibration hazards.
Advice and support for the prevention and treatment of vibration-related MSDs can be found at the following websites: