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Vibration risk assessment

The aim of the risk assessment is to help you decide what you need to do to ensure the health and safety of your employees who are exposed to vibration.

Your risk assessment should:

You must record the findings of your risk assessment. You need to record in an action plan anything you identify as being necessary to comply with the law, setting out what you have done and what you are going to do, with a timetable and saying who will be responsible for the work.

You will need to review your risk assessment if circumstances in your workplace change and affect exposures. Also review it regularly to make sure that you continue to do all that is reasonably practicable to control the vibration risks. Even if it appears that nothing has changed, you should not leave it for more than about two years without checking whether a review is needed.

How do I get started?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the questions in the section 'Do you have a vibration problem?' you will need to assess the risks to decide whether any further action is needed, and plan how you will do it.

To carry out your risk assessment you will need to identify whether there is likely to be a significant risk from hand-arm vibration. You should:

Consultation

It is important during this whole process to discuss hand-arm vibration with your supervisors, employees and the trade union safety representative or employee representative. You will need to develop and agree a policy for managing vibration risks which will provide reassurance to your employees about their job security and to explain why co-operating with your risk control measures and health surveillance programme will be in their best interests.

Assess who is at risk

If there is likely to be a risk you need to assess who is at risk and to what degree. The risk assessment needs to enable you to decide whether your employees' exposures are likely to be above the EAV or ELV and to identify which work activities you need to control.

Competence

You could do the risk assessment yourself or appoint a competent person to do it for you. The person who does the risk assessment should have read and understood these pages, have a good knowledge of the work processes used in your business and be able to collect and understand relevant information. They should also be able to develop a plan of action based on their findings and ensure it is introduced and effective. They will need to:

How should I use this information?

Group your work activities according to whether they are high, medium or low risk. Plan your action to control risks for the employees at greatest risk first. Your rough groupings could be based on the following:

High risk (above the ELV)

Employees who regularly operate:

Employees in this group are likely to be above the exposure limit value set out in the Regulations. The limit value could be exceeded in a much shorter time in some cases, especially where the tools are not the most suitable for the job.

Medium risk (above the EAV)

Employees who regularly operate:

Employees in this group are likely to be exposed above the exposure action value set out in the Regulations.

Do I need to measure my employees' exposure to vibration?

The rough groupings described above should be enough for you to do a basic risk assessment which will enable you to decide whether exposures are likely to exceed the exposure action value and exposure limit value and to allow you to plan and prioritise your control actions effectively. For further information see 'Control the risks'.

Alternatively, you may choose either to use available vibration data or to have measurements made to estimate exposures if you want to be more certain of whether the risk is high, medium or low. A more detailed exposure assessment may help you:

 If you decide to do this, read 'Estimating exposure'.

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Estimating Exposure

You may be able to get suitable vibration data from the equipment handbook, or from the equipment supplier. See Table 1 for examples of vibration levels HSE has measured on equipment in use. There are also some databases on the internet which may have suitable vibration data.

If you plan to use the manufacturer's vibration data you should check that it represents the way you use the equipment (see 'Duties of manufacturers and suppliers') since some data may underestimate workplace vibration levels substantially. Ask the manufacturer for an indication of the likely vibration emission of the tool when your employees are using it. If you are able to get vibration data from the manufacturer which is for common tools reasonably representative of the way you use the equipment, it should be suitable for you to use in estimating your employees' exposure.

Road breakers Typical 12 m/s2
Modern tool designs, good operating conditions and trained operators 5 m/s2
Worst tools & operating conditions 20 m/s2
Demolition hammers Modern tools 8 m/s2
Typical 15 m/s2
Worst tools 25 m/s2
Hammer drills/combi hammers Typical 9 m/s2
Best tools & operating conditions 6 m/s2
Worst tools & operating conditions 25 m/s2
Needle scalers Modern tool designs 5 – 7 m/s2
Older tool designs 10 – 25 m/s2
Scabblers (hammer type) 20 – 40 m/s2
Angle grinders (large) Modern vibration-reduced designs 4 m/s2
Other types 8 m/s2
Angle grinders (small) 2 – 6 m/s2
Clay spades/jigger picks Typical 16 m/s2
Chipping hammers (metal-working, foundries) Typical fettling 18 m/s2
Modern tool designs 10 m/s2
Pneumatic stone-working hammers Vibration-reduced hammers and sleeved chisels 8 – 12 m/s2
Older tools, conventional chisels 30 m/s2
Chainsaws Typical 6 m/s2
Brushcutters Typical 4 m/s2
Best 2 m/s2
Sanders (random orbital) Typical 7 – 10 m/s2

Table 1 Some typical vibration levels for common tools

You also need to check, by observing them, how long employees are actually exposed to the vibration (ie the total daily 'trigger time' with the equipment operating and in contact with the employee's hand(s)). Employees are unlikely to be able to provide this information very accurately themselves. You could observe and measure the trigger time over, for example, half an hour and then use the result to estimate the trigger time for the full shift. Alternatively, where the work task is repetitive, e.g. drilling large numbers of holes in masonry, you could measure the trigger time when drilling several holes and multiply the average by the number of holes typically drilled in a shift.

If the employee is exposed to vibration from more than one tool or work process during a typical day, you will need to collect information on likely vibration level and 'trigger time' for each one.

Once you have collected relevant vibration data and exposure times you will need to use an exposure calculator to assess each employee's daily exposure

Alternatively, you can use the simple 'exposure points' system in Table 2 to estimate the daily exposure.

Table 2 Simple 'exposure points' system

Tool vibration (m/s2) 3 4 5 6 7 10 12 15
Points per hour (approximate) 20 30 50 70 100 200 300 450

Multiply the points assigned to the tool vibration by the number of hours of daily ‘trigger time’ for the tool(s) and then compare the total with the exposure action value (EAV) and exposure limit value (ELV) points.

100 points per day = exposure action value (EAV)
400 points per day = exposure limit value (ELV)

Workplace vibration measurements

If you want to obtain vibration measurements for your own tools you will need to arrange for a competent person to carry out measurements for you using specialised equipment. Measurement results can be highly variable, depending on many factors, including the operator's technique, the condition of the work equipment, the material being processed and the measurement method. The competence and experience of the person who makes the measurements is important so that they can recognise and take account of these uncertainties in producing representative vibration data.

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Duties of manufacturers and supplier

How can tool and machine manufacturers and suppliers help?

Tool and machine manufacturers and suppliers are obliged by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 (as amended) to design equipment which will reduce vibration risks to as low a level as possible, making use of the latest technology. The equipment should be CE-marked to show that it complies with these requirements, and health and safety information should be provided in an instruction book. This should include:

For most types of tool, manufacturers use internationally agreed test methods for vibration testing. These allow you to compare the vibration performance of different brands and models of the same type of tool. Unfortunately, many of these test methods do not represent the way tools perform at work and vibration levels in the workplace may be much higher than those in this type of 'laboratory' test.

In some industries, employers' organisations, equipment manufacturers and hire companies have adopted colour-coding systems to mark tools to show which are high, medium and low risk. These 'traffic light' systems are intended to help users manage the use of the tools to control risks from vibration.

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2013-11-28