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Construction physical ill health risks: Vibration

Exposure to vibration when using hand held / operated tools and machinery can lead to permanent injury of the hands and arms. This page tells you how to control these risks and why. More detailed information is available on the main HSE vibration page.

What you must do

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 says you must prevent or reduce risks from exposure to vibration at work. Follow the Assess, Control and Review model. Pay particular attention to:

Assess

Identify and assess: Construction sites have a range of different activities involving vibrating tools and machinery. Consider:

You may also need to consider any risks from upper limb disorders associated with this work.

Control

Where the risks are judged to be low, simple and inexpensive controls will suffice.  For higher risks, you will have to do much more to protect workers. Give priority to the greatest risks first.

Prevent: Where possible think about eliminating or reducing the amount of vibration. Consider:

Control: Even if you stop some of the risk this way, you may still do other work that can create significant vibration. Control the risk by:

You can find detailed information on vibration controls in the guidance to the regulations and elsewhere on HSEs website.

Train: Tell workers about the risks from vibration and how to use the controls properly.

Review

Supervise: Ensure that controls are effective and properly used.

Maintain: Effective maintenance can make big differences to vibration levels.  Loose or worn parts of tools and plant create extra vibration. Blunt, damaged or inefficient tools have increased vibration and also mean tasks can take longer, increasing exposure levels.

Monitor: Check the controls to ensure they are effective. This might mean:

What you should know

Vibration is transmitted into your hands and arms when using hand held / operated tools and machinery. Excessive exposure can affect the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hand, wrist and arm causing Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Construction workers are particularly at risk because of the work they do and the equipment they use such as concrete breakers, pokers and compactors, sanders, grinders and disc cutters, hammer drills, chipping hammers, chainsaws, scabblers and needle guns.

HAVS sufferers find this can have an impact on keeping their job and on social and family life. Those affected can experience difficulty carrying out tasks involving fine or manipulative work and everyday tasks, such as fastening small buttons on clothes, become a problem too. Working outdoors in cold conditions, which is common in construction work, increases the likelihood of a painful response. Car washing or even watching outdoor sports when suffering from HAVS can lead to very painful attacks. This damage to the hands is largely irreversible.

Updated 2014-09-11