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COVER STORY


“ THE INDUSTRY’S TOP


PRIORITY


Reactec’s CEO, Jacqui McLaughlin, talks us through why protecting employees against HAVS needs to remain front of mind for employers.


Exposure to vibration through the hand and arm system can cause serious vascular, neurological, and musculoskeletal damage, which is collectively known as Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). Many are aware that there are over two million workers at risk of HAVS and three hundred thousand people suffering advanced stages of HAVS within the UK. Did you know that over 10 years after regulations to control exposure to vibration in the workplace were released, HAVS remains the highest reported industrial workplace injury? It accounted for 43% of all RIDDORS reported in the UK in 2018.


“HAVS remains the highest reported industrial workplace injury. It accounted for 43% of all RIDDORS reported in the UK in 2018.”


The disease became so prevalent with increased use of power tools that the EU in 2002 and the UK in 2005 released regulations to control the potential risk of developing the disease within the workplace. The regulations require employers to carry out suitable and sufficient assessments of risk, implement occupational health screening when the risk is of a certain level and, most importantly, reduce the risk as low as reasonably practicable.


It can affect sufferers from carrying out simple tasks like holding a cup of tea, getting dressed or reading a newspaper. Those that suffer are forced to stop work or to change their career entirely. These are devasting consequences, especially as hand and arm vibration can be monitored and processes adapted accordingly to prevent such damage from happening.


Earlier this year, the HSE released the ‘Hand-arm vibration: Inspection and Enforcement Guidance’, which replaced the ‘HSE Topic Inspection Pack Hand- Arm Vibration’ guidelines. The new guidance pack is one that we greatly welcome. It provides a consistent framework for assessing compliance and making enforced decisions for inspectors. It also provides an easy-to-follow process which all employers can learn from in terms of the guidance that is included to help inspectors carry out independent assessments of HAV exposure at visited sites.


16


Often, a major challenge for duty holders is choosing a vibration magnitude that is appropriate for the assessment of exposure to Hand Arm Vibration (HAV). This has been recognised in the new HSE guidance. Inspectors are now asked ‘to assess exposure assessment on a similar tool, machine or workplace in working conditions representative to those being assessed’.


To help inspectors, a table is included within the newly released guidelines, but they are also pointed to the updated HSE ready reckoner on the HSE website. The table and ready reckoner include a HSE “recommended initial value” vibration magnitude based on generic tool types which are in good condition. Duty holders should therefore be very mindful of this as a critical reference against which Inspectors will consider assessments as being adequate.


When it comes to employers meeting the new HSE requirements, maintaining records of employee time on vibratory tools is essential. Traditionally, this has been done on paper, but this is prone to misrepresentation and is limited in scope in terms of the new guidance. Gathering a tool’s usage and HAVS exposure data digitally removes the inevitable guess work of a manual approach and lets an employee’s health risk be managed based on actual exposure as opposed to generic assumption. The continued prevalence of HAVS RIDDORS indicates that traditional methods are not adequate.


The range of HAV monitoring technologies and their varying capabilities has led to the HSE giving conservative general guidance on the use of monitoring. In particular, the HSE are keen that use of any such technology is for the purpose of adapting working practices to ensure a safer environment. In the HSE FAQ on HAV monitoring, the benefits of HAV monitoring is recognised as it can be used to ensure that controls are effective in realising risk levels of an acceptable level.


Of the HAVS monitoring technologies on the market place, Reactec’s wrist worn HAVwear watch fared best for gathering the appropriate time of a tool’s use in a recent assessment by the HSE laboratories as published in a poster session for the IOA conference October 2020. Our technology has two other distinct benefits over similar technologies in the marketplace which can play a part in enabling duty holders to


www.tomorrowshs.com


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