Vibration can cause long-term painful damage to hands and fingers (hand-arm vibration or HAV), and shocks and jolts from driving certain types of vehicles can cause severe back pain (whole-body vibration or WBV).
Because of these health concerns there are regulations which must be followed to protect anyone potentially at risk from vibration at work - these are the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
Hand Arm Vibration
At work, hand-arm vibration comes from the use of hand-held power tools. It may cause significant damage to the blood vessels, nerves and joints resulting in painful and disabling disorders. Typical symptoms include tingling and numbness in the fingers, not being able to feel things properly, loss of strength in the hands and most commonly, ‘vibration white finger’ a condition when the fingers go white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery particularly in the cold and wet, and probably only in the tips at first.
There are hundreds of different types of handheld power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are chainsaws, concrete breakers/road breakers, cut-off saws (for stone etc), hammer drills, handheld grinders, impact wrenches, jigsaws, polishers, power hammers and chisels, powered lawn mowers, powered sanders.
The exposure of employees to vibration from hand held power tools and equipment must be assessed. There is a daily Exposure Action Level above which action must be taken to control exposure and a daily Exposure Limit Value which defines the maximum amount of vibration that an employee may be exposed to in a single day.
If the assessment indicates that exposures above the daily exposure action value are likely, controls must be introduced to reduce the exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. If exposures are above the daily exposure limit value immediate action must be taken to reduce exposure below the limit value.
Health surveillance is provided for employees who are regularly exposed to hand arm vibration.
Whole Body Vibration
Whole-body vibration is transmitted through the seat or feet of people who drive or are passengers on ride-on mowers, tractors, fork lift trucks, quarrying or earth-moving machinery especially over rough and uneven surfaces as a main part of their job. Large shocks and jolts may cause health risks including back-pain.
Measures that minimise the risk include provision of well maintained vehicles, work rotation to avoid prolonged period in the vehicle and training and guidance on how to eliminate or minimise ergonomic hazards associated with driving.