Select equipment for reduced vibration exposure

After doing all that is reasonably practicable to replace or modify your work processes, your employees may still be exposed to vibration. If so, you should try to avoid unnecessarily high vibration exposures by careful selection of power tools and other equipment. You can do this by:

  • Specifying a maximum level of vibration emission as part of your policy when purchasing or renting tools and equipment;
  • Asking suppliers, as part of the tendering process, to demonstrate to you and your employees the tools and consumables, such as grinding wheels, in the intended use where the level of vibration can also be measured if required.

The efficiency of the tool is important - a tool which takes a long time to do a job will not be popular, and could result in a higher vibration exposure than a more efficient tool with greater vibration emission. Tools may also be too powerful for the job, and this too could result in exposure to unnecessarily high vibration levels.

Advances in material and manufacturing technology have brought about improved designs of hand-held and hand-guided machines with lower levels of vibration emission, however, simply buying newer power tools may not eliminate or minimise the vibration exposure. There may still be a residual risk from exposure to vibration which must be managed, and if the tool you choose is not suitable for the job you want to do, it could increase the risk (the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 apply.)

Generally, power tools manufactured for professional use can be recognised from their design, appearance and performance. Tools intended for the domestic (DIY) market, where less use is expected, may have greater vibration emissions. All tools on sale in the European Union should meet the relevant safety requirements and carry the 'CE' mark. You should beware of tools that are copies of well-known brands (so-called grey imports); these may be of a relatively poor standard, unsafe for use and with higher vibration emission.

Power tools - what must I do as an employer?

You have duties under the Vibration Regulations to assess the risks to employees from using power tools and to take appropriate measures to control them. The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 also apply. They require you to provide your employees with equipment, which is suitable for the job, to keep it properly maintained and to ensure that operators are trained to use it correctly and safely. The power tool you select must be:

  • Suitable for the work it is intended to do and for the conditions in which it will be used;
  • Used only for operations and in conditions for which it is suitable;
  • Designed and constructed so as to reduce the risk from vibration;
  • Used only by workers trained to use it safely;
  • Properly maintained throughout its working life to sustain its best vibration performance.

When selecting tools for purchase or hire you should consider ergonomic factors such as:

  • Tool weight;
  • Tool efficiency and suitability for the task;
  • Handle design/comfort;
  • Grip force needed;
  • Ease of use/handling;
  • Cold from grips or exhausts on compressed air tools;
  • Noise; and
  • Dust.

You should take account of your employees' opinions, based on practical trials where possible.

Buying tools - how can manufacturers and suppliers help?

Anyone supplying power tools for use in Great Britain (manufacturers, importers, suppliers and tool hire firms) must comply with the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992 (as amended). They have duties to design and construct their products to reduce risks from vibration to a minimum, and to inform you about risks that they have been unable to eliminate by design. They should be able to help you select the most suitable and safe tools for your particular needs by providing useful information and advice about tool vibration, selection and management. There is more information in Part 4 of HSE's guidance book on hand-arm vibration which should help you to understand the vibration information provided by manufacturers and suppliers of machinery.

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