Using powerful, vibrating tools can lead to several short-term and long-term health issues – some of which can be irreversible.
If your colleagues are exposed to vibration risks, it's essential that your company has a plan for protecting colleagues.
Before we look at ways to minimise the risk of hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), let's explore why vibrations are a risk for workers.
What is hand arm vibration?
When vibrations are transmitted into workers' hands and arms, they can suffer injuries as a result. The vibration typically comes from handheld power tools, hand-guided machines, or by holding materials that are being fed into machines.
Why is hand arm vibration a problem?
If people use vibrating tools (or are exposed to vibration from another source) regularly or frequently, then the vibration can cause two health complaints:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)
Symptoms of hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)
Hand-arm vibration syndrome typically starts with numbness or tingling in the fingers and hands. This can develop into impaired dexterity and pain.
If HAVS develops further, it can lead to significant disability, and sufferers may struggle to grip things, manipulate small objects and may be prone to dropping things. Basic tasks like eating with cutlery can become impossible.
The effects of HAVS may be irreversible – which is why prevention is crucial.
Other effects of vibration
Repeated exposure to vibration can damage the blood vessels in the hands and arms, and also cause musculoskeletal injuries such as arthritis and tendonitis.
It is your duty as an employer to minimise exposure to the risk of vibration. Under the Vibration Regulations you must:
- Control risks from vibrations
- Provide information and training to employees on the risks of vibration
- Monitor health and safety risks.
The Vibration Regulations specify the maximum amount of exposure that is acceptable for your employees, with an exposure action value (EAV) and an exposure limit value (ELV):
- Daily EAV of 2.5 m/s2 A(8)
- Daily ELV of 5 m/s2 A(8)
Preventing hand-arm vibration injuries
In addition to ensuring that the exposure level does not exceed the limit stated above, it is also your duty to minimise exposure as much as possible.
If your employees are exposed to vibration risks, how can their exposure be reduced? Are there other ways to achieve the same result?
If some risk is unavoidable, ensure that the limits are within the legal threshold, and try to give employees frequent breaks and opportunities to change their work.
Monitor employees for signs of HAVS or carpal tunnel syndrome, and ensure any incidents of vibration-related injuries are reported to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in accordance with RIDDOR (reporting of injuries, diseases and dangerous occurrences regulations).
Hand-arm vibration training
Do you have a consistent system for training your colleagues about the dangers of vibrations?
Our new eLearning course provides an easy, affordable way to keep your colleagues aware of the dangers and safe from harm.