What is Hand-Arm Vibration? Part 3


This is the final video in a three-part series, where noise and vibration specialists Teli Chinelis and Sue Hewitt detail exactly what hand-arm vibration is and answer some common questions surrounding it.

What about health surveillance?

An employer should also provide health surveillance for those who are identified as being at risk. This might be because they are exposed above the Exposure Action Value, or it might be perhaps because they already have early symptoms and need to be monitored more closely to make sure that their health does not deteriorate further.

The Occupational Health provider should provide advice regarding the management of anyone found to have developed symptoms of HAVS. It is important to make sure that if an affected individual continues with exposure to vibration, it is actually at a reduced level. An employer needs to make actual changes to what the individual is being asked to do to make sure that their exposure is reduced.

It is always important to keep good records of actions taken as well as those in progress and planned for the future.

Is it necessary to measure the vibration magnitudes (levels)?

The aim of the vibration risk assessment is to identify any significant risks and prioritise actions necessary to control exposures to as low as reasonably practicable. This can very often be done without the need for vibration measurements: rather than investing a great deal of time and money in measuring vibration, use reliable published vibration data for an initial risk assessment.

The HSE website provides free generic vibration magnitude information and a calculator to help with this process. Using the data provided and with an idea of the amount of time in a typical day that employees are exposed to each process involving vibration, it is easy to use the calculator as a starting point to estimate the daily vibration exposures for each individual or task.

These daily vibration exposure estimates can then be compared with the Exposure Action Value, to establish if there is a need for control action, and can also be used to prioritise controls. However, rather than going through this process, an employer can simply choose to assume that the exposure is sufficient to require action and put the resources into controlling to as low as reasonably practicable, rather than attempting (sometimes at considerable expense) to show that exposure does not reach the Exposure Action Value.

Is it necessary to monitor vibration exposures?

Keep records, yes, but you don’t need to keep monitoring exposure. Monitoring exposure is not controlling exposure.

If you are recording exposures after they have happened, or if you are using monitoring devices to work up to a limit, even if it’s a low limit, it is not good practice because you are not reducing the exposure and risk to ALARP.

Don’t leave it to your employees to manage their own exposures.

You should try to be in control of the exposure instead. That said, a period of monitoring can be helpful for your assessment to get information on daily tasks and work patterns and work out how each task carried out contributes to an individual’s daily exposure.

Rather than monitoring, you could try allocating tasks with known exposure contributions to each of your employees, so that you know in advance what their exposure is likely to be. After all, if you are monitoring exposures with the attitude that if someone exceeds a certain level you will take action to reduce their exposure, then that suggests that there is something else you could do to reduce their exposure, and if its reasonably practicable to do so then you should probably be doing it already.

Is there any suitable PPE for hand-arm vibration?

There is a lack of evidence to show that anti-vibration gloves can reduce the risk from vibration exposure.  The simplest advice, as given by HSE, is that gloves cannot be relied upon to provide any benefit, and that they may in some situations, have adverse effects. Gloves can, of course, be used to keep the wearer’s hands warm and dry, which is beneficial for maintaining good circulation, but anti-vibration gloves may not be the most suitable gloves for this purpose. Other means of controlling exposure to vibration, such as eliminating the vibration altogether using alternative work techniques, buying and using low-vibration machinery, carrying out routine preventative maintenance and controlling exposure durations are far more likely to reduce vibration exposures.

If you want to know more about hand-arm vibration, please contact [email protected] and [email protected] or they can be reached on 01530 412777.

As always, if you have any issues associated with noise or vibration please contact the relevant experts at Finch Consulting.

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