Vibration transmitted through the hands and arms can cause damage to the nerves, blood supply and 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.
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 and less.
Am I at risk?
If you are exposed to levels of vibration above the exposure action level you may be at risk. Examples of vibration exposure include regular use of machines such as:
- Concrete breakers, concrete pokers, rock drill;
- Sanders, grinders, disc cutters;
- Hammer drills;
- Chipping hammers, caulking hammers, riveting hammer, scaling hammer;
- Chainsaws, brush cutters, hedge trimmers, barking machine, strimmer
- Powered mowers;
- Nibbling machine, scabblers or needle guns
- Impact wrench.
You are particularly at risk if you regularly operate:
- Impact action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
- Some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour 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
- 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 you continue to use high-vibration tools these symptoms will probably get worse, for example:
- The numbness in your hands could become permanent and you won’t be able to feel things at all;
- You will have difficulty picking up small objects such as screws or nails;
- The vibration white finger could happen more frequently and affect more of your fingers
Is Health Surveillance required?
Health surveillance is required for vibration hazards where:
- Workers likely to be regularly exposed to vibration levels above the exposure action value (EAV – 2.5m/s2 a(8));
- Workers likely to be occasionally exposed to vibration levels above the exposure action value (EAV – 2.5m/s2 a(8)) where the risk assessment identifies that the frequency and severity of exposure may pose a risk; &
- All workers who have a diagnosis of HAVS
Is it a legal requirement?
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.
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