Mary Cameron, a team leader at SOCOTEC’s Occupational Hygiene team, discusses the role that measured vibration levels and manufacturer’s data plays when assessing HAV exposure and implementing subsequent control measures.

As per the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, employers are required to protect their employees against the health and safety risks associated with hand-arm vibration (HAV) exposure in the workplace, reducing exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable (ALARP). With symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and white finger caused by overexposure to vibration, it is important to ensure that the level of risk is adequately managed.

Understanding the level of exposure to HAV may require employers to take a range of different actions. This includes the observation of specific working practices, the on-tool measurement of the magnitude of the vibration to which employees may be exposed, or the application of the manufacturer’s vibration emissions data provided in the tool’s user manual.


CONTROL MEASURES? In August 2020, new guidance was published by the HSE entitled HAVS Inspection and Enforcement Guidance Document for all inspectors, specialists and visiting officers, replacing the Topic Inspection Pack on Hand-arm Vibration. The document states that hand- arm vibration should be considered as a matter of evident concern where:

• Exposure is likely to be at or above the Exposure Action Value (EAV).

• There is evidence of vibration-related ill health, such as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) or carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), not being properly managed.

• Employees report tingling when using vibrating tools, which persists for 20 minutes or more afterwards.


Aimed at those responsible for the inspection of occupational activities involving exposure to vibration levels, as well as those investigating cases of HAVS and carpal tunnel syndrome through RIDDOR, the document provides a consistent framework for assessing compliance and making enforcement decisions. It advises on the impacting exposure levels of varying factors, as well as the actions required in the event of high exposure levels and inadequate control measures. Vibration magnitude is one of the key factors which impacts the assessment of HAV exposure, with two methods for the determination of vibration magnitude examined below:

ON-TOOL VIBRATION MEASUREMENT DATA Measured vibration levels play a major role within a HAV

risk assessment, allowing the employer to understand the magnitude and extent to which their employees are exposed to vibration under the actual conditions of equipment use. On-tool measurements often provide more accurate data based on actual tool usage within a particular process, as the measurement relies on the operator to demonstrate typical tool usage under those process-specific conditions. This is opposed to the equipment’s vibration magnitude data issued by the manufacturer, which is based on specific circumstances of application under laboratory conditions.

While arguably more accurate, the data produced from an on-tool vibration assessment should still be treated with caution, should this data have been gathered in a situation not reasonably representative of typical exposure. On-tool measurements can be impacted by variable factors such as hand placement, tool age, maintenance date, the materials being worked on, application style, the type of tool head, accessories and power settings. It is therefore important to ensure that a competent person, such as a qualified occupational

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