Managing Hand & Arm Vibration at Work
Released On 1st Nov 2023
Hand-arm vibration (HAV) often results from work processes involving handheld power tools, impacting the well-being of workers' hands and arms. Prolonged and frequent exposure to HAV can lead to enduring health issues, such as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), characterized by painful numbness, tingling, and joint pain in the hands and arms.
Employers are mandated to safeguard their workforce from injuries and health problems linked to HAV, in accordance with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. Alongside referring to industry-specific guidelines, employers should consider the following risk-mitigation strategies:
- Choose the right equipment: Organizations should assess the vibration emissions of different equipment models when making selections. Ideally, equipment should have the lowest possible vibration levels while still being suitable for the job. Employers may consider specifying maximum vibration emission levels in workplace safety policies.
- Limit daily exposure: Employers should plan work schedules to minimize employee exposure to vibration. Establishing maximum daily exposure durations and implementing rotating schedules can further reduce employees' vibration exposure. Regular breaks are essential, allowing tool operators to relieve tension in their hands, arms, and fingers while improving circulation.
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE): While gloves cannot directly shield against HAV, keeping employees' hands warm can lower the risk by promoting healthy blood circulation. Employers should supply workers with gloves, warm clothing, and appropriate PPE, especially when working in cooler conditions.
- Train staff: Organizations must offer equipment operators and supervisors information about vibration-related risks and comprehensive training on the correct usage and maintenance of equipment.
- In general, employers should seek alternatives to tasks that involve HAV whenever possible. Alternatively, they should take practical steps to minimize vibration risks to the most reasonable extent possible.