The construction industry is a high risk industry for vibration related ill health. The main risk is from the use of hand held vibrating tools such as breakers, hammer drills / combihammers or scabblers. Use of hand held hammer or rotary action vibrating tools can lead to Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) if not correctly controlled.
As a rough guide, if workers regularly use hammer action power tools for more than 15 minutes per day, or rotary or other action power tools for more than about an hour per day, there may be a problem with exposure to hand-arm vibration. If workers complain of tingling in their hands that lasts for 10 minutes or more after use of a power tool, this may also indicate a problem.
Quality of life can be badly affected by hand-arm vibration syndrome. For some people symptoms appear after only a few months of exposure but for others it may take years. For example, affected people may find that:
Eliminating the process that is resulting in exposure to hand-arm vibration or substituting it for a process which results in less exposure are the best ways of dealing with hand-arm vibration exposure on a construction site. You will need to consider this during the risk assessment process. Selecting equipment that reduces exposure to vibration can help significantly. Organisational measures, such as job rotation, can also be useful.
Here are some examples of how you can reduce exposure to hand-arm vibration:
In many cases a risk assessment for vibration at a construction site can be prepared without using equipment to measure the vibration levels. The assessment must be based on reliable information though and should include a realistic estimate of the employee’s exposure.
You may find it useful to observe work activities, measure the exposure time over part of the day and use this to estimate exposure during a full shift. If an employee is exposed to vibration from more than one tool or work process during a typical day, you will need to collect information about the likely vibration level(s) and exposure time for each source.
Information from manufacturers or suppliers about vibration levels produced by the equipment can be used to calculate the daily exposure unless there is reason to believe it is not valid, for example if the tool is being used in a way not specified by the manufacturer or supplier.
The quality of vibration data should be discussed with suppliers / manufacturers of equipment. Vibration data measured according to current standards should give a good indication of the likely exposure to vibration when the tool is in use, but manufacturers may also give additional information about residual risk, such as when the results of the standard vibration tests are known not to be very representative of real usage.
No. Anti-vibration gloves are not an effective measure against exposure to hand-arm vibration. Using normal gloves to help keep the hands warm in cold weather is useful, but no gloves provide effective protection against vibration from hand held tools.
No. There is no legal requirement for continual monitoring and recording of vibration exposure. Timers and vibration meters can be a useful tool for carrying out a risk assessment or for monitoring the preventive measures in place to ensure that they are effective. Relying on these devices to ensure that workers do not exceed the Exposure Limit Value (5 m/s2 A(8)) on a day to day basis is not appropriate and if your employees are continually working up-to the Exposure Limit Value then you should be looking at doing the work in a different way. Restricting exposure to just below the Exposure Limit Value will still result in many workers developing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
If you would like further information about vibration related topics including:
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Trade associations and other industry bodies can also be a good source of information about how to control exposure to vibration in your work.