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Vibration at Work

Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

What is hand arm vibration syndrome?

Hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) is a disorder that effects the blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints of the hand, wrist and arm and is caused by the use of tools that have high vibration levels.

Some effects are:

  • Impaired blood circulation and blanching of fingers and parts of the hands (known as vibration white finger);
  • Numbness and tingling of the fingers and hands, reduced ability to grip objects and reduced sensitivity both of touch and to temperature;
  • Pain and stiffness in the hands and joints of the wrists, elbows and shoulders.

What are the signs to look out for?

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers;
  • In the cold and wet, fingers go white, then blue, then red and become painful;
  • There may be difficulty feeling things or picking up small objects such as screws or nails;
  • There may be pain, tingling and numbness in your hands, wrists and arms;
  • There may be loss of strength in hands;

Vibration at Work Regulations came into effect on 6 July 2005

Exposure Limit Values and Action Values

The Regulations define an exposure action value of 2.5m/s² for hand arm vibration and an exposure limit value of 5.0m/s². The exposure action value defines an exposure level at which point an employer must aim to reduce the exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. If an employee’s exposure is above the exposure limit value an employer must reduce the exposure to below the limit value.

The daily exposure values must be determined using the vector sum (root sum squared) of three axes of vibration for hand arm vibration.

How is vibration measured?

The magnitude of vibration is measured in terms of the acceleration of a tool (rapidly moving backwards and forwards, up and down), in metres per second squared - m/s². The readings are then converted to correspond to an 8 hour working day.

What does this mean to the University?

This legislation is relevant in schools / service directorates where motorised hand tools and machinery is used on a regular basis e.g. Gardens and Grounds, Trades and Cleaning staff. In these areas, risk assessments should be reviewed and new levels of vibration for the equipment used should be taken (specialist equipment is required – refer to Safety, Environment and Continuity Ext 7079 to organise this). This may affect the length of time and frequency of which some equipment can be used by any one individual and may also require annual health surveillance checks. Further consideration should also be given to vibration when purchasing new equipment.

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