Health, Safety and Environment Monthly Message

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 focus on the elimination or control of vibration exposure, and introduce action and limit values for hand-arm and whole-body vibration. The regulations require that employers:

  • make sure that risks from vibration are controlled;
  • provide information, instruction and training to employees on the risk and the actions being taken to control risk; and
  • provide suitable health surveillance.

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into workers’ hands and arms. This can come from use of hand-held power tools (such as grinders or road breakers), hand-guided equipment (such as powered lawnmowers or pedestrian controlled floor saws) or by holding materials being worked by hand-fed machines (such as pedestal grinders or forge hammers).

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to two forms of permanent ill health known as:

  • hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS); and
  • carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Symptoms and effects of HAVS include:

  • tingling and numbness in the fingers which can result in an inability to do fine work (for example, assembling small components) or everyday tasks (for example, fastening buttons);
  • loss of strength in the hands which might affect the ability to do work safely;
  • the fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery, reducing ability to work in cold or damp conditions, e.g. outdoors.

HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it is permanent. Colleagues with any concerns relating to their use of vibrating equipment should contact their line manager immediately. The most efficient and effective way of controlling exposure to hand-arm vibration is to look for new or alternative work methods which eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration. Once the likelihood of risk has been established you should look more closely at which workers, or groups of workers, are likely to be at risk and what can be done to reduce those risks, through completion of risk assessment.

Further information relating to hand-arm vibration at work is available via the Health and Safety Executive website at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/.

For any further information, please contact the Health, Safety and Environment Team at hasstaff@aber.ac.uk or on extension 2073.

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