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Construction

Table 1: Alternative processes to avoid/reduce use of vibrating equipment

This table identifies alternative methods for specified high risk activities or processes; and links to further information and case studies.

A PDF version of table 1 is also available. It includes example vibration magnitudes and the corresponding times to reach the exposure action and limit values.

Activity or process Alternative methods Further information (links)
Tunnelling by hand with clay spade or jigger pick. Mechanised tunnelling methods, to eliminate hand digging. This is expected for all but the smallest tunnelling jobs.

British Tunnelling Society, preparing a code of practice

Tunnelling and Pipejacking: Guidance for Designers

Breaking concrete, asphalt, etc. with hand-operated breakers in ground work, road maintenance, etc.

Demolition of concrete/masonry using hand-held hammers/breakers

Plan construction work (e.g. casting-in ducts, detail box-outs) to minimise breaking through new concrete/masonry.

Use alternative method/equipment as appropriate:

  • machine-mounted hydraulic breakers

  • floor saws

  • directional drilling/pipe jacking to avoid trenching

  • hydraulic crushers

  • hydraulic bursters

  • diamond core drilling

  • diamond wire cutting

  • hydro-demolition (UHP water jetting)

Construction Industry Council guidance

Mounted breaker

Directional drilling


Crushing concrete

Bursting concrete

Diamond wire cutting


Water jetting


Codes of Practice from the Water jetting Association

Pile cropping using hand-held hammers/breakers

Pile cap removal using hand-operated breakers is not acceptable. Use alternative method as appropriate:

  • Elliott method
  • Recipieux method
  • suspended hydraulic pile cropper
  • the above alternatives to hand-operated breakers, especially machine-mounted breakers
  • design pile spacing and pile re-bar for mechanised cropping

Note: some dressing using hand-operated tools may still be required.

Pile cropping. A review of current practice (HSE Inspector information leaflet, Aug 02)


Information from Loughborough University

Scabbling using:

needle scalers

hammer type scabblers

pole type scabblers

Scabbling purely for architectural aesthetic effect is not acceptable. Specify finishes that do not require scabbling. (Some finishes can be designed into shuttering using special moulds or chemical retardants and water jetting.)

Surface preparation to ensure a good concrete bond. Use alternative methods where technically appropriate:

  • grit blasting (wet or dry)
  • use of chemical retarders and pressure washing
  • cast in proprietary joint formers e.g. mesh formwork
  • UHP water blasting (refer to COP for safety guidance)

Example: grit blasting
Example: paint-on retarder
Example: special formwork
Codes of Practice from the Water jetting Association

Wall chasing using hand-held breakers
  • in new buildings, specify built-in ducting
  • in existing buildings, consider overcoating existing plaster and building in the ducts

Construction Industry Council guidance

Drilling masonry/concrete using:

electric hammer drills or “combihammers”

Design and plan to avoid unnecessary drilling. Use, where appropriate:

  • jig-mounted drilling
  • diamond core drilling (clamped in rig)
  • cast-in anchors and channels for wall fixings instead of drill-and-fix types
  • use of direct fastening tools


Note 1: changes of process to eliminate or reduce vibration may introduce other hazards to health (e.g. noise, dust) or safety which must be addressed and managed (e.g. hazards associated with lifting operations in some mechanised methods for pile cap removal).

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Table 2: Management of HAV risks where use of vibrating equipment is unavoidable

A PDF version of table 2 is also available.

Issue Expectation References and related guidance
Selection of work equipment

Tool selection can make a substantial difference to the vibration level but the tool must be suitable for the task and used correctly.

Employers should demonstrate a sound procurement policy for power tools and hand-guided machines, showing they have considered the following:

  • There is no reasonably practicable alternative method with no (or less) vibration exposure (see Table 1)
  • Equipment is generally suitable for the job (safety, size, power, efficiency, ergonomics, cost, user acceptability, etc.)
  • Reduced vibration designs are selected provided the tools are otherwise suitable (e.g. breakers with handle suspension)
  • Declared vibration emission is not high compared with competing machines of similar capacity to do the job
  • Information on likely vibration emission in use (e.g. from manufacturer, hire company, databases)
  • Available information from the manufacturer or elsewhere on control of vibration risks through:
    • maintenance (e.g. servicing grinders, sharpening drills and chisels)
    • selection of consumables (abrasive discs, chisels, drills, etc.)
    • correct operation and operator training (see below)
    • maximum daily trigger times or maximum daily work done with the tool

Selecting equipment


Employers’ leaflet on HAV

Limiting daily exposure time

Restricting exposure time (“finger-on-trigger” time) may be required to bring exposures below the ELV, even after all reasonably practicable measures to reduce vibration levels are in place.

Maximum times can be determined using the exposure points system or supplier’s “traffic lights” tool categories, but these should be derived from sound “real use” vibration emission values.

Note: Employers tend to ask “How long can we use this tool?” The exposure must be reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable (Reg 6(2)), so the ELV should not be used as a target, if a lower exposure is reasonably practicable.

Reduce the period of exposure


Exposure points system and ready reckoner

Other risk controls

Control of HAVS risk by means other than reducing vibration exposure:

  • Ergonomic aids support weight of tool and reduce forces applied by operator
  • Suitable workplace temperature or provision of warm clothing and gloves
  • Regular breaks from work involving vibration and encourage operators to exercise fingers

Gloves and warm clothing

Other measures


Employees’ leaflet on HAV

Information, instruction and training

Employees at risk from vibration should have received information on:

  • the risks from HAV and how to help reduce them (see above)
  • arrangements for health surveillance and their duty to cooperate.

Look for evidence that tools are being used correctly, as recommended by the manufacturer. This may require operators to receive specified training – are operators and their supervisors aware of the need? In particular, breakers with suspended (sprung) handles designed to absorb vibration must be used correctly, and with appropriate force, or the potential reduction in vibration will not be achieved.

Employees’ leaflet on HAV


Information and training

Example: training provided by breaker manufacturer

Health surveillance

Required where the EAV is likely to be exceeded. Expect to see, as a minimum:

  • use of a periodic health screening questionnaire – ideally annually and for new employees
  • arrangements for referral of relevant cases to an occupational health provider with HAVS expertise for diagnosis and ongoing monitoring
  • arrangements to receive medical advice on management of affected employees
  • arrangements for RIDDOR reporting of HAVS cases
  • arrangements to receive anonymised information to demonstrate effectiveness of controls although this may not be meaningful for casual/short-term workers

In construction, short-term employment presents difficulties for managing health surveillance; cooperation between employers should be encouraged.

Employers’ leaflet on HAV

Health surveillance guidance

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2012-11-21