By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration so that you can protect your employees from risks to their health.
Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised action plan to control exposure to hand-arm vibration.
Where required, ensure that control measures to reduce vibration are properly applied, and you provide information, training and health surveillance. Review what you are doing if anything changes that may affect exposures to vibration where you work.
Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers' hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders.
Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person's job. Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.
Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Identifying signs and symptoms at an early stage is important. It will allow you, as the employer, to take action to prevent the health effects from becoming serious for your employee. The symptoms include any combination of:
For some people, symptoms may appear after only a few months of exposure, but for others they may take a few years. They are likely to get worse with continued exposure to vibration and may become permanent.
The effects on people include:
These effects can severely limit the jobs an affected person is able to do, as well as many family and social activities.
This will depend on whether your employees regularly and frequently work with vibrating tools and equipment and/or handle vibrating materials. It will also depend on how long your employees are exposed to vibration and at what level. As a simple guide you will probably need to do something about vibration exposures if any of the following questions apply:
Do your employees complain of tingling and numbness in their hands or fingers after using vibrating tools?
Do your employees hold work pieces, which vibrate while being processed by powered machinery such as pedestal grinders?
Do your employees regularly use hand-held or hand guided power tools and machines?
If your employees regularly operate hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day, or some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day, they may be at higher risk.
If you work in an industry where exposures to vibration are particularly high, such as construction, foundries, or heavy steel fabrication/shipyards, your employees may be at a higher risk.
Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example:
There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are: