Whole-body vibration (WBV) in docks

The Vibration Regulations require risks from vibration to be minimised. They set an exposure action value (EAV) which is the amount of daily exposure to WBV above which you are required to take specific actions to reduce risk, as well as an exposure limit value (ELV) that should not be exceeded. They also require control of shock.

WBV exposures in operators of port machinery are generally around the EAV and so require management ( Groups 1 and 2 in table below). In some cases there is a risk that needs careful management (Group 3 in table below). Shocks experienced on terminal and ro-ro internal movement vehicles are higher than on other port plant. The risk of back pain in ports appears higher than expected compared with vibration exposure in other industries, possibly because drivers are exposed to WBV at the same time as other causes of back pain.

You should not usually need to measure WBV exposures to know where and how the Regulations apply. However, action to manage workplace exposure to WBV is required for most mobile machinery used in ports.

Managing workplace exposure to whole-body vibration

Risk group Example work practice Exposure and consequence
Group 1 WBV alone is unlikely to cause back pain*
  • Rubber-tyred gantry cranes
  • Rail-mounted gantry cranes
  • Quayside cranes**
  • Steel-handling fork-lift trucks

Exposure is likely to be below the EAV (0.5 m/s2A(8)) with no significant shocks.

Low-cost vibration-reduction measures and management of WBV can reduce damage to machinery and reduce the likelihood of back pain.

Exposure to WBV in combination with poor posture (or other independent causes of back pain) may greatly increase the risk of back pain compared with that from any of the individual causes alone.

Group 2 Risk of back pain from WBV alone is low
  • Straddle carriers**
  • Reach stackers**
  • Empty container handlers
  • Top lifts
  • Industrial trucks Front loaders/shovels

Exposures are likely to exceed the EAV (0.5 m/s2A(8)) on some days, but shocks are expected to be small.

The risk of back pain from WBV is likely to be low and back pain is more likely to be caused either by other factors or by the combined effect of WBV and other factors.

You must have a formal programme of WBV management (proportionate to the risk) in place for Group 2 and above.

You must have low-cost vibration-reduction measures in place, but costly or difficult measures are unlikely to be reasonably practicable.

Group 3 WBV is a likely cause of back pain
  • Internal movement vehicles (IMVs) – terminal and ro-ro
  • Pallet trucks***

Exposures are likely to be much higher than the EAV and/or contain large shocks.

You must have effective engineering and management controls.

Health monitoring is recommended to confirm that the risk from WBV is under control.

Group 4 You must restrict duration of exposure to WBV It is unusual for tasks in port activities to fall into this category To comply with the ELV (1.15 m/s2A(8)) you must restrict how long people are exposed to WBV.

*Although vibration exposures are very low, it is advisable to control vibration exposures in ports because WBV and poor posture (or other causes of back pain) together are likely to increase the risk of back pain.

**Examples of these machine types are known to cause much higher vibration exposures than indicated here. Avoid unnecessary WBV when choosing, maintaining, and specifying operating procedures for these types of machinery.

***High vibration and shocks have been measured on the footplate of this type of machine but the likelihood of WBV causing back pain is probably lower than measured exposures indicate because the operator is standing. A good health monitoring scheme will help confirm the level of risk from WBV for operators of these machines.

What action should I take?

The action you need to take varies with the degree of risk. Table 1 identifies common machinery and indicates into which WBV risk management group they will normally fall when following good practice suited to, for example, vessel and load types and dockyard surface quality. You may also need to address the risk of back pain from awkward postures.

If you operate machinery or perform tasks not listed in Table 1 you may find information from manufacturers, your trade association, or elsewhere to identify what level of control action is required. Exposures should be reduced so far as is reasonably practicable. You may wish to get advice from a person who has the qualifications, knowledge and expertise to help you decide what you need to do.

HSE's whole-body vibration website provides detailed advice on controlling the risks from WBV.

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Updated 2020-03-29