Health Surveillance in relation to occupational vibration exposure


Employers have a legal obligation to reduce the risk to their employees from exposure to hand-arm vibration to as low as reasonably practicable. In this video, Teli Chinelis discusses how employers can do this in relation to health surveillance.

Employers have a legal obligation to reduce the risk to their employees from exposure to hand-arm vibration to as low as reasonably practicable. It is recognised, however, that there may be situations where exposure to hand-arm vibration at potentially harmful levels is sometimes necessary, and there is no effective personal protective equipment.

It is therefore essential that employees at risk are included in an appropriate health surveillance programme for HAVS and other conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome that are associated with work involving vibration exposure.

This allows the condition to be identified in the early stages, so that action can be taken to prevent progression to an advanced stage in which the symptoms are severe and disabling.

In addition,  employees should be given HAVS awareness training and relevant information, ideally with refresher training at appropriate intervals. Employees must be encouraged to report any relevant symptoms.

The regulations require health surveillance to be provided for employees whose vibration exposures are likely to reach or exceed the exposure action value on more than just rare occasions, or who is otherwise identified as being at risk, for example, if they have existing HAVS or other vascular or nerve disorders affecting the hands.

The Health and Safety Executive recognises the potential cost of health surveillance and has recommended a ‘tiered approach’ in which routine (e.g. annual) screening of individuals, and screening on first employment, is done using a questionnaire; if the responses indicate the need, the individual is referred for a structured interview with a qualified person, such as an occupational health nurse.

If this assessment suggests that the employee has HAVS, the individual will be referred to a doctor for a formal diagnosis and the doctor may, if required, refer the person for standardised tests to assist in the diagnosis.

All but the largest employers generally employ an external occupational health service provider to manage their health surveillance programme.

Where an individual has been diagnosed with HAVS or another relevant condition, the employer should receive information on the diagnosis subject to the employee’s agreement and on their fitness to continue working with vibrating tools.

The occupational health service provider may make recommendations for reducing a person’s vibration exposure, in which case the employer will need to pay particular attention to the allocation of that person’s work ensuring a real reduction in exposure, and may, if necessary, recommend removal from further exposure.

If you would like further information in relation to health surveillance on occupational vibration then please contact Finch Consulting and we‘ll get back to you as soon as possible.

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