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Vibration at work

Vibration at work

Your legal responsibility

You must prevent or reduce the risks to the health and safety of staff being exposed to vibration at work. When you carry out The 5-step approach to risk assessments, you should pay particular attention to any work that exposes employees to vibration.

What law applies?

  • The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
  • The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005

Vibration levels

You must take specific action when the daily vibration exposure reaches a certain limit.

Exposure action value

The exposure action value (EAV) is the daily amount of exposure to vibration. If levels rise above the EAV, you must control it. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more you'll need to do to reduce the risk.

The EAV for hand-arm vibration and whole-body vibration is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8).

Examples of jobs that involve exposure to vibration above the EAV limit include:

  • Building and maintenance of roads and railways
  • Construction
  • Estate management (e.g. maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and rail side verges)
  • Forestry
  • Heavy engineering
  • Manufacturing concrete products
  • Mines and quarries
  • Motor vehicle manufacture and repair
  • Public utilities (e.g. water, gas, electricity and telecommunications)
  • Shipbuilding and repair

Exposure limit value

The maximum amount of vibration an employee can be exposed to on a single day is called the exposure limit value (ELV). This level must not be exceeded. For hand-arm vibration and whole-body vibration, the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8), which represents a high risk. You must ensure employees aren't exposed to levels above this.

Hand-arm vibration

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into employees' hands and arms. It can be caused by using hand-held power tools or hand-guided equipment or machinery.

When carrying out the risk assessment, make sure the legal limits on exposure to vibration aren't exceeded. Also, you'll need to carry out health checks if there are any risks to your employees' health.

Early symptoms

If you identify signs and symptoms early, you can act to prevent the health effects from becoming serious. Early symptoms include any combination of:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers
  • Not being able to feel things properly
  • Weakening hands
  • Fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery (particularly in cold and wet conditions)

Symptoms can appear after only a few months of exposure, but they can also take a few years. If the exposure continues, the symptoms are likely to get worse and could become permanent.

If your employees regularly work with vibrating tools and equipment and/or are frequently exposed to vibration, then you should consider the following:

  • Do they complain of tingling and numbness in their hands or fingers after using vibrating tools?
  • Do they hold work pieces that vibrate while being processed by powered machinery?
  • Do they regularly use hand-held or hand-guided power tools and machines?

Whole-body vibration

Whole-body vibration (WBV) is vibration transmitted through a seat or the feet.

Regular long-term exposure to WBV causes back pain, as well as other factors such as poor posture.

Drivers of vehicles such as tractors, forklift trucks and earth-moving equipment are at particular risk of WBV.

More information

See the HSE hand-arm vibration exposure calculator and whole-body vibration calculator for calculating daily vibration exposures.

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