The HSE Guidance on hand arm vibration, L140, has been updated but the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 have not changed and neither has HSE’s policy. The HSE emphasis is, as ever, on control.
There have been some minor changes to associated legislation since the previous version in 2005. These changes are described in the new guidance as follows: ‘A revised Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) came into force across Europe on 29 December 2009, implemented in the UK as the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations (SMR) 2008. Harmonised standards supplementing and elaborating on the requirements of the Machinery Directive have improved the information about vibration being supplied with powered hand tools.’
The HSE website has been providing information on sources of vibration magnitude (https://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/source-vibration-magnitude-app3.pdf) for a few years now and has also recently produced a new version of the HSE vibration exposure calculator (https://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/vibrationcalc.htm) which now has vibration magnitudes associated with a drop-down list of tools.
All this information is provided to help duty holders establish what actions are necessary and to prioritise those actions so that the highest exposures are controlled first. It’s not necessary (and also often not possible) to assess exposure precisely to establish which are the biggest risks. Measuring, monitoring and recording vibration exposure is not control, and it is control that is the key to protecting and preserving workers’ health. So most resources should be put into controlling exposures to as low as reasonably practicable. Have we said control enough times yet?
Sensible and practical control of risk, as emphasised in the HSE guidance, would involve for example: finding new/alternative ways of doing the work to avoid vibration exposure altogether or reducing it to a minimum; selecting better, efficient, ergonomic tools where their use is unavoidable and maintaining them in good working order; controlling exposure times through appropriate planning and management of the work; and ensuring workers keep warm and dry.
Finch experts have a depth of experience and can assist in sensible, practical assessment and control of vibration risks.