What Effect Does Long Term Exposure to Vibration at Work Have?

Posted on written by Sam Barton

Depending on the sector you work in, you may be exposed to vibration from using power tools or other handheld equipment.

It is estimated that around 2 million workers in the UK are at risk of developing conditions that come with being exposed to long-term vibration at work. This can include HAV syndrome as well as other problems which can cause a big impact in later life.

In this week’s blog post we want to explore what effect exposure to vibration at work can cause and what employers and employees can do to limit these risk’s and ensure health and safety is maintained.

What Effect Does Vibration Exposure Have?

We can break vibration exposure down into two different categories – hand-arm vibration and whole body vibration.

Both can cause different long-term effects on the body that are permanent and have a negative impact on the sufferers’ quality of life.

HAV syndrome, which comes from using hand-held power tools, is often found in people that have worked in shipbuilding, construction and ground maintenance. It can result in Raynaud’s disease which restricts blood flow, arthritis and tendonitis which can cause severe pain and loss of grip in addition to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that impacts on dexterity.

When we blogged about the 2017 Health and Safety at Work Statistics for GB a few months ago, we found that 500,000 new or long-standing musculoskeletal disorders were reported among workers.

Whole body vibration, commonly found in employee’s that drive machines or vehicles over rough and uneven terrain is a big cause of back pain which can severely impact on mobility.

What Can Be Done to Limit the Risks?

Under various pieces of legislation such as the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act, employers have a duty to limit the risks that workers face when they use tools or vehicles when can lead to the health problems that we mentioned above.

In many cases, workers only use these tools or vehicles for a short period of time, therefore, exposure is limited. That being said, in certain cases action must be taken when this equipment is being operated over a longer time span.

A risk assessment should be conducted to evaluate how employees that would normally be in danger of health conditions associated with vibration at work can reduce this exposure while continuing to do their jobs.

The HSE has some useful guidance for employers on how to limit the risk for employees in regards to hand-arm vibration while there is also a separate section on whole body vibration.

Many workers in the UK are exposed to vibration every day and for short periods of time, this is OK, however, if it becomes a long-term issue then it can result in permanent and irreversible health problems such as arthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or severe back pain.

With proper risk control measures then exposure should be limited however a large number of employees are still developing these conditions years later. While legislation is having an impact, there is still much work to be done to ensure that developing these health conditions is limited as much as possible.

Long Term Exposure to Vibration at Work - safety courses and training

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