Vibration and noise
Hand Arm Vibration
Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and vibration-related carpal tunnel syndrome (v-CTS) are painful and disabling conditions that reduce the ability to handle objects and can affect blood circulation.
Cases of hand-arm vibration have been found in UK stonemasons’ yards but masons themselves appear reluctant to report their symptoms. Regular exposure to vibration transmitted into hands and arms from equipment, such as handheld power tools, may cause ill-health. However, occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill-health.
Many stonemasons use a range of powered hand-tools during the working day. Most masons using powered hand-tools are at risk of developing HAVS. Generally speaking, masons, who use rotary power tools such as grinders (cutting or polishing), are likely to reach daily exposure action value well within an hour. Masons, who use traditional stone hammers are likely to reach exposure action value in 5 minutes of actually using the tools (trigger times) and reach the exposure limit value well within half an hour. This puts them at very high risk from vibration.
Employers are required to assess and control stonemasons’ exposure to vibration to ensure that their exposures are as low as reasonably practicable (ALARP) and always below the exposure limit value. In the absence of representative in-use vibration measurements of tools used, employers can use the ‘initial values’ in Table 1 in combination with your observations of length of exposure (trigger times) to make an initial estimate of daily vibration exposures and introduce controls if the exposure is not ALARP.
For more information, including a link to the HSE hand-arm vibration calculator, look at the HSE pages on vibration.
- Information on vibration levels for commonly used hand-held power tools by stonemasons
||Range, m/s2 (10th to 90th %ile)
||Value for initial risk assessment,
m/s2 (75th %ile)
||dry polishing stone
|in-line traditional tool
|in-line vibration reduced tool
||in-line vibration reduced chisel
|vibration-reduced chisel sleeve
In the process of assessing risks from vibration, employers should identify hazardous machines, tools and processes, especially those that cause tingling or numbness in hands after a few minutes, and control exposure. To control exposure, employers need to:
- whenever possible, automate the processes to eliminate risks from vibration;
- where powered hand-tools have to be used for particular processes, provide suitable lower vibration tools, for example, vibration reduced stone hammers/chisels;
- check whether the job can be altered so it requires lighter grip or pressure;
- make sure people use the right tool for the job and are trained to use it correctly, for example, do NOT use stone hammers at higher operating air pressure than recommended by the manufacture;
- make sure tools and machines are maintained as recommended by the manufacturer;
- provide health surveillance to workers whose exposures are likely to be at or above the exposure action value or who are at risk.
For more information look at the HSE pages on noise.
Loud noise at work can damage your hearing. Employers should be taking steps to protect workers, and there are many practical, cost-effective ways that this can be done. For example:
- firstly, where possible, removing the source of the noise;
- using quieter equipment or a different, quieter process;
- engineering/technical control at source;
- using screens, barriers or enclosures;
- limiting the time people spend in noisy areas.
Hearing protection should not be used as an alternative to controlling noise. However, you should issue it to employees for short-term protection, or where extra protection is needed above what has been achieved using noise control. You need to train employees on how, when and where to use hearing protection.
If the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk to health for employees exposed to noise, they should be placed under suitable health surveillance (regular hearing checks).