Q & A Hand tools

Guidance for employers on vibration information supplied with powered hand tools

Feedback from the Q&A session on the supply of powered hand tools

What should I expect from a good supplier of powered hand tools?

A good supplier of powered hand tools will :

  • Recommend a range of tools suitable for the job that are state of the art design (including vibration design)
  • Provide a clear description of the vibration risk you will need to manage
  • Provide instructions on how to use each tool without risk of vibration injury
  • Report the vibration emission according to the European Standard

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Can I find the information about vibration before I buy the tool?

Many suppliers supplement the vibration information in the instructions with further vibration information in other literature, passed on during training courses, and on internet web pages. Most of which is available before you buy tools.

The law currently (February 2009) requires that the information is supplied with the tool.

New law coming into force on 29 December 2009 requires that information on vibration emissions contained in the instructions should appear in any sales literature that describes the performance characteristics.

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Is there any vibration information that I should be wary of?

Manufacturers should declare vibration emission according to the latest Standard test code. Many test codes are currently (Feb 09) being revised to meet the requirements of the revised Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) specification for test codes EN …:2005. This Directive comes into force across Europe on 29 December 2009 and will be implemented in the UK by the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2009.

Many of the established standard test codes (and perhaps some of the revisions) fail to represent the likely magnitude of vibration that you (the employer) will need to manage. The data from these test codes is usually good for comparing the relative magnitudes of vibration from competing tools.

The vibration from electric tools should have been determined according to the relevant part of the EN 60745 series (published after 2008).

The vibration from pneumatic and other power sources should have been determined according to the relevant part of EN ISO 28927 (published from 2009).

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Specific test codes exist for some types of power tool

Ask the supplier if the declared vibration magnitude can be used to compare the vibration emissions of tools.

Ask the supplier if the declared vibration emission is reliable for estimating the likely vibration exposure of the user during normal use.

If the declared vibration is not claimed as suitable for estimating the vibration emission, there is residual vibration risk and the supplier should be able to supply some further information that describes the vibration risk that you (the employer) need to manage.

Ask the supplier for information that describes the vibration risk that you need to manage.

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What vibration information should I expect from a good supplier?

Your supplier should be able to provide powered hand tools that have

  • Had vibration reduced to a minimum at source (compromising with other safety and design features where appropriate);
  • Information that makes you aware of the vibration risk that you will need to manage – this may be the vibration emission declaration alone or in combination with other information that makes clear the risk from vibration;
  • Information on how to use the tools in a way that avoids risk from vibration
  • A declaration of the vibration emission according to Standard tests

You should use this information to plan control of the vibration risk for your employees.

You may need to supplement information provided with the tool if it is not clear that risk is under control in your circumstances.

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Does the declared vibration emission have any use?

The declared vibration emission has generally been good for comparing the vibration emissions of similar power tools.

Many tools have similar vibration emissions but the Standard test results help you pick out the tools that have unusually low or high vibration.

Test data from early Standards often under-represented vibration risk but current work to revise the Standard tests should result in declared emission values that are both comparable between tools and indicative of the likely vibration during normal use.

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What constitutes a good purchasing policy for low vibration tools?

First you should compile a shortlist of tools that are suitable for the job.

Once you have a shortlist of tools that are efficient and acceptable to the people expected to use them, you should identify and avoid unnecessarily high vibration models.

You should then plan use of the tools so that exposure to vibration is reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.. 

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Do I need precise times and vibration magnitudes for a suitable and sufficient assessment of the vibration risk?


You need to know who is at risk from exposure to hand-arm vibration sufficient to plan for control of that risk.

Exposures vary from day to day and from person to person according to the detail of the work and the techniques of individuals. Nevertheless, the magnitudes of vibration from the tools used and the durations of use in a workplace make vibration exposures fairly repeatable.

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Do I need to use tool timers to help me estimate vibration exposures?

You need to measure the likely range of trigger times for the processes that are undertaken so you have sufficient information to decide if exposures are likely to exceed the exposure action value.

You should plan for exposures to be as low as is reasonably practicable - you do not need the precision that tool timers offer to do this as part of your assessment of vibration exposures

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How useful are tool timers?

Good Points

  • Help quantify trigger times during exposure assessment
  • Complex systems can estimate exposure for multiple tool use
  • Can be used to audit success of planned controls
  • Keeping a record of likely exposure

Bad Points

  • Vibration sensor does not measure the vibration - just the time the tool is powered up
  • Estimate of vibration is based on a pre-programmed value of vibration emission
  • Even a complex system will only work if all tools are programmed into it and all tool users comply with the instructions for use
  • Exposure is more sensitive to vibration magnitude than duration of use
  • Discouraging adequate planning for exposures to be as low as is reasonably practicable
  • Capturing exposures for multi-tool users

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