The UK manufacturing industry was warned today(2 June) about the need to limit employees' exposure to hand-arm vibration caused by older equipment, in the light of legislation effective from July this year.
The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to ensure their staff are not exposed to a daily "exposure action value" above 2.5m/s2 or an overall exposure limit value of 5m/s2. Equipment purchased since that date must already comply with these limits – however, for equipment purchased before 6 July 2007, the new regulations take effect from 6 July 2010.
The Regulations apply to a number of areas including the use of hand-held powered tools and equipment.
Brammer – a supplier of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) products and services – said excessive exposure to vibration can increase the risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), which is displayed through symptoms such as Vibration White Finger (VWF), a whitening of the fingers which can lead to circulatory, joint, muscle and nerve problems. This can lead to absenteeism, Brammer warned, and even a requirement to retire from work, with potentially serious legal ramifications for employers who have been negligent in this area. It is an area which is subject to rigorous enforcement by the Health & Safety Executive. Carpal tunnel syndrome is among the other possible negative health outcomes.
Vibration is usually calculated by a sensor positioned on the tool or part where it is usually held, which calculates the accelerations along the three principal axes. Limits are determined by averaging exposure over an eight-hour period.
Jeremy Salisbury of Brammer explained: "Since 2005, companies have been able to allow their employees to use older equipment which may cause vibration above the level prescribed by the Regulations, but older equipment must now be replaced if it does not comply." Companies should undertake a full risk assessment and where necessary change working methods and equipment in order to ensure compliance.
Advice on the Regulations can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/regulations.htm, while the full text of the Regulations can be accessed at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2005/20051093.htm. There is also a booklet available form the HSE entitled "Control the risks from handarm vibration".
Author: Ken Hurst