Vibrations in the workplace: More serious than you think!

browns safety services blog-hand arm vibrations feature

Posted on 17th Jul, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham

As a tradesperson you face a huge number of risks on a day-to-day basis – from potential falls from a height, to manual handling injuries and even exposure to life-threatening asbestos. But did you know that vibrations in the workplace can also pose serious risks to your health and wellbeing?

Hand-Arm Vibration and Whole-Body Vibration are just two of the conditions that can occur as a result of exposure to vibration. Read on, as we discover the causes of the conditions and how to prevent them from developing.

Risks to health from vibration

 As well as being at risk of a number of vibration syndromes, tradespeople who are exposed to vibrations on a regular basis can also suffer from long-term damage to their nerves, muscles and joints.

The HSE says that Hand-Arm Vibration is a major cause of occupation ill health and around 5 million workers are exposed to this type of vibration in the workplace.

The risk of permanent damage from vibration depends on a number of factors ranging from how high the level of vibration is, how long it’s used for, how tightly the equipment is gripped and how cold and wet it is when the equipment is used. Workers exposed to high levels of vibration for long periods of time and in wet, cold conditions are ultimately most at risk.

browns safety blog hand arm vibratons causes

Common vibration-related conditions

There are three conditions than can develop from prolonged exposure to vibration:

  • Hand-Arm Vibration – This is caused by regular exposure to vibrating and percussive tools, or with regular grinding and cutting operations. Use of power drills, chainsaws, strimmers and road breakers all increase the risks of this condition, especially when used in cold or wet conditions.
  • Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome – Sufferers of this syndrome have damage to their muscles, joints, circulation and nerves as a result of Hand-Arm Vibration.
  • Whole-Body Vibration – If your whole body is exposed to vibration – from sitting, standing or lying on a vibrating service, you’re at risk of these conditions. Forklift truck operators, tractor operators and any heavy plant vehicle drivers need to be aware of this condition and act for prevention. Without doing so they can find themselves suffering from chronic back pain and further injuries.

Preventing injury

Just because you’re exposed to vibration on a regular basis, doesn’t mean you have to suffer from vibration-related conditions.

The following guidelines will minimise the impact of vibrations and protect your body against further damage:

  • Hold tools as loosely as possible and vary the position of them frequently.
  • Use the right tools for the job to ensure you’re doing it as efficiently as possible.
  • Take regular breaks to minimise long-term exposure. Mini-breaks are better than just one long lunch break.
  • Keep warm at work to minimise the impact of the vibrations on your muscles and joints.
  • For vehicle drivers, adopt optimal working posture and driving style. Also remember to limit your driving speed, especially on poor terrain.

Have you ever suffered from any vibration-related injuries in the workplace? If so, share your story with us in the comments below or tweet us @BrownsLadders

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