Introduction to managing vibration at work

Hand-arm vibration (HAV) can be caused by:

  • operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers
  • operating hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers
  • holding materials being processed by hand-fed machines, such as pedestal grinders

Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

Whole-body vibration (WBV) mainly affects drivers of vehicles used off-road, such as:

  • dumpers
  • excavators
  • agricultural tractors

However, it can also affect drivers of some vehicles:

  • used on paved surfaces, such as lift trucks
  • on rails, such as gantry cranes

Why dealing with vibration is important

Hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)

HAVS is a painful and disabling condition that affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hands and arms. It causes tingling and numbness in the fingers, reduces grip strength and the sense of touch, and affects the blood circulation (vibration white finger, also known as VWF).

More on hand-arm vibration

Whole-body vibration

WBV is associated mostly with low back pain. However, back pain can also be caused by other factors, such as manual handling and postural strains, and while exposure to vibration and shocks may be painful for people with back problems, it will not necessarily be the cause of the problem.

More on whole body vibration

What you have to do

You must:

  • assess the vibration risk to your employees to identify if there is a problem
  • put in place appropriate control measures to counter the risks
  • provide health surveillance where risk remains (HAVS only)
  • provide information and training to employees on health risks and the actions being taken to control those risks

How you can reduce hand-arm vibration

Identify hazardous machines, tools and processes, especially those which cause tingling or numbness in the hands after a few minutes' use.

If possible, do the job another way without using high-vibration equipment, for example using:

  • rotary hammers
  • powered pedestrian-controlled mowers
  • hand-fed forging hammers

Ask about likely vibration levels for the way you use equipment before deciding on which new tool or machine to buy or hire.

Provide suitable tools designed to cut down vibration.

Make sure people use the right tool for the job and are trained to use it correctly.

Make sure machines (including tools) are maintained as recommended by the manufacturer to prevent vibration increasing. For example, check:

  • their sharpness
  • the condition of abrasive wheels
  • anti-vibration mounts, where fitted

Check whether the job can be altered to reduce the grip or pressure needed.

How you can reduce whole-body vibration

Choose vehicles or machines designed to cope with the task and conditions.

Keep site roadways level, fill in potholes and remove debris.

Train drivers to operate machines and attachments smoothly, to drive at appropriate speeds for the ground conditions and to adjust suspension seats correctly.

Maintain and repair machine and vehicle suspension systems, tyre pressures and suspension seats.

The law

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to assess and control the risks to the health and safety of their employees from vibration.


Foundry work

Manufacturing cast pipe components using 'traditional' green sand casting resulted in a product requiring a lot of remedial work (fettling), using powered hand-held tools, to produce the necessary quality of finish. The holes in the pipe flanges then had to be drilled in a separate operation.

How the problem was tackled

A 'lost-foam' casting process was introduced and resulted in such a high quality of casting that fettling was no longer required, eliminating all exposure to hazardous vibration.

The casting was so precise that it allowed the holes to be cast into the flanges, which removed the need for drilling and further reduced production time and costs.

Is this page useful?