Workplace environments where employees are exposed to high levels of vibration through the use of hand held tools or machinery are at risk of developing hand arm vibration syndrome. There are a range of specific professions that are in the high risk category which include the following industries –
- Building and maintenance of roads and railways
- Estate management (e.g. maintenance of grounds, parks, water courses, road and rail side verges)
- Heavy engineering
- Manufacturing concrete products
- Mines and quarries
- Motor vehicle manufacture and repair
- Public utilities (e.g. water, gas, electricity, telecommunications)
- Shipbuilding and repair
A list of the tools that are commonly associated with hand arm vibration syndrome conditions are noted on our tools associated With hand arm vibration syndrome page.
Measures to control the risk of hand arm vibration in the workplace
Explore different methods to do the work that do not include the use of vibrating power tools. This maybe through the use of different tools or using machines to do the work that human workers used to do.
The type of equipment that is used in the workplace has a large impact on the levels of vibration that an employee may have to suffer. Tools that are gripped correctly, that are in excellent condition and that are used in the way that they were designed to be used will lessen the risks associated with excess vibration. Also, when selecting the type of equipment to be used it is important to select the equipment that will do the job correctly but with the least amount of vibration to the worker.
New tools in general will work better than old tools and should emit less vibration. By regularly replacing old (potentially worn out and malfunctioning) equipment with new modern equipment there is a lessened risk of excess vibration. As part of a company purchasing policy, the vibration levels of hand held machinery should be a consideration.
The actual environment in which the tools are being used should be ergonomically designed so that a worker can grip and use equipment in a comfortably fashion as opposed to struggling with a piece of machinery on a badly designed work surface of bench.
Regular machine or tool maintenance is a must in the workplace. A poorly maintained piece of machinery is more likely to provide increased levels of vibration if the worker has to overtly force of grip the machinery in an unorthodox way.
Workers should be kitted out in the right type of protective clothing, and they should be kept dry and warm where possible. This could include working indoors where possible and the use of protective gloves (both of which are measures which can help to reduce the risk of a worker developing vibration white finger symptoms).
Finally, an effective mechanism for reducing the risk of hand arm vibration syndrome is to reduce the amount of time a worker has to use vibrating tools. This can include the use of rotas between staff using vibrating equipment.