Employers face a complex web of regulatory requirements plus additional HSE guidance.
Yet the overarching responsibility for any organisation whose employees are exposed to workplace vibration is really very simple – “to reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable”.
It’s therefore essential that employers are able to accurately assess vibration exposure for each and every worker.
The European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive (2002/44/EC) governs employers’ responsibilities to their staff in respect of workplace vibration. In the UK, this Directive forms the basis of The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations require employers to assess their workers’ vibration exposure. If employees are likely to be exposed to levels above the daily Exposure Action Value, the employer must introduce a programme of controls to minimise or eliminate risk.
Daily Exposure Action Values are defined as follows:
Hand-Arm Vibration – 2.5 m/s2
Whole Body Vibration – 0.5 m/s2
If the risk assessment reveals that workers are exposed to vibration levels that exceed the Daily Exposure Limit, the employer must take immediate action to reduce their exposure below the limit value.
Daily Exposure Limit Values are defined as follows:
Hand-Arm Vibration – 5 m/s2
Whole Body Vibration – 1.15 m/s2
However, HSE guidance clearly states that “Restricting exposure to just below the Exposure Limit Value will still result in many workers developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).” So the latest advice to employers is to implement a programme of continual improvement in the way vibration exposure is managed, and to reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.
Accurate risk assessment requires accurate vibration measurement, and there are numerous devices which can help employers to understand the vibration levels to which their workers are exposed. However, not all of the products currently on sale comply with HSE guidelines, which clearly state, “Hand-arm vibration measurements should be made with the transducer firmly attached to the vibrating surface.”
HSE reaffirm this point by asserting that, “There is currently no wrist or glove mounted device which measures vibration suitable for use in a vibration risk assessment.”