Assess The Risks

How do I get started?

You will need to identify whether there is likely to be a significant risk from hand arm vibration. You should:

  • find out from your employees and their supervisors which, if any, processes involve regular exposure to vibration;
  • see whether there are any warnings of vibration risks in equipment handbooks;
  • ask employees if they have any of the HAVS symptoms described and whether the equipment being used produces high levels of vibration or uncomfortable strains on hands and arms.

Consultation

It is important during this whole process to discuss hand-arm vibration with your supervisors, employees and the trade union safety representative or employee representative. You will need to develop and agree a policy for managing vibration risks which will provide reassurance to your employees about their job security and to explain why co-operating with your risk control measures and health surveillance programme will be in their best interests.

Assess who is at risk

If there is likely to be a risk you need to assess who is at risk and to what degree. The risk assessment needs to enable you to decide whether your employees, exposures are likely to be above the EAV or ELV and to identify which work activities you need to control. You could do the risk assessment yourself or appoint a competent person to do it for you.

The person who does the risk assessment should have a good knowledge of the work processes used in your business and be able to collect and understand relevant information. They should also be able to develop a plan of action based on their findings and ensure it is introduced and effective. They will need to:

  • make a list of equipment that may cause vibration, and what sort of work it is used for;
  • collect information about the equipment from equipment handbooks (make, model, power, vibration risks, vibration information etc) or if not available use the OPERC online system;
  • make a list of employees who use the vibrating equipment and which jobs they do;
  • note as accurately as possible how long employees’ hands are actually in contact with the equipment while it is vibrating – in some cases this ‘trigger time’ may only be a few minutes in several hours of work with the equipment;
  • ask employees which equipment seems to have high vibration and about any other problems they may have in using it, eg its weight, awkward postures needed to use the tool, difficulty in holding and operating it;
  • record the relevant information they have collected and their assessment of who is likely to be at risk.

How should I use this information?

Group your work activities according to whether they are high, medium or low risk. Plan your action to control risks for the employees at greatest risk first. Your rough groupings could be based on the following:

High risk (above the ELV)

Employees who regularly operate:

  • hammer action tools for more than about one hour per day; or
  • some rotary and other action tools for more than about four hours per day.

Employees in this group are likely to be above the exposure limit value set out in the Regulations. The limit value could be exceeded in a much shorter time in some cases, especially where the tools are not the most suitable for the job.

Medium risk (above the EAV)

Employees who regularly operate:

  • hammer action tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or
  • some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day.

Employees in this group are likely to be exposed above the exposure action value set out in the Regulations.

"Do I need to measure my employees’ exposure to vibration?"

The rough groupings described above should be enough for you to do a basic risk assessment which will enable you to decide whether exposures are likely to exceed the exposure action value and exposure limit value and to allow you to plan and prioritise your control actions effectively (see 'Control the risks’).

Alternatively, you may choose either to use available vibration data or to have measurements made to estimate exposures if you want to be more certain of whether the risk is high, medium or low. A more detailed exposure assessment may help you:

  • decide which control actions might be most effective and practicable in reducing vibration exposure;
  • be more certain whether exposures are likely to exceed the action or limit values;
  • check whether your controls are effective.

If you decide to do this, view ‘Estimating exposure’.

Testimonial:

Interlink M74 Project - David Teasdale, Site Foreman

“I couldn’t believe the HAVmeter could survive those conditions. When we saw it slip into a flooded cavity, we thought we’d never see it again. However, when we found it again two months later, we just took it out, wiped it down, and carried on using it. It is a very impressive and resilient piece of technology.”