Are your employees exposed to significant levels of hand arm vibration?

What is the problem? 

Hand arm vibration is transmitted from hand-held power tools and can result in painful and disabling disorders of nerves, blood vessels and joints of the hands. 

This includes conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and vibration white finger. If you have a history of using power tools and have symptoms such as white, numb or painful fingers particularly in the wet and/or cold, you should report it to your employer and occupational health or GP if you don’t have access to occupational health.

What legislation applies to vibration in the workplace?

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

What can be done to reduce the effects of vibration? 

Employers must assess the risk to workers’ health if employees working and operating hand-held power tools exposing them to hand-arm vibration.  Equipment includes road breakers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines, such as pedestal grinders. Exposure to vibration can be measured using equipment attached to the equipment and an exposure action value of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) requires an employer to provide health surveillance for workers.  Where-ever possible exposure should be reduced or eliminated.

More about health surveillance

Basic health surveillance consists of regularly seeking information about early symptoms of ill health by using an initial questionnaire. There are 5 levels to this screening, each varying in depth according to what level of screening and results is required.

  • Tier 1 is a short questionnaire setting a baseline level when a worker first starts working with vibrating tools
  • Tier 2 is a short questionnaire used as an annual survey for workers who are working with vibrating tools
  • Tier 3 is a health assessment conducted by a qualified person such as an occupational health nurse

If this assessment indicates that an employee may have HAVS Tier 4 will apply. 

  • Tier 4 is a formal assessment and diagnosis made by a doctor who is specially trained in HAVS
  • Tier 5 is when specialised tests are conducted to help a doctor make the diagnosis and assess fitness for work when examination alone doesn’t give enough information. 

Next Steps

If you are an employer and need to have vibration tools assessed in the workplace to clarify if your workers are at risk, we would be happy to arrange an assessment.

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