In a previous article on the topic, we discussed how the US is evolving its approach to Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) from an ergonomic, rather than regulatory, standpoint. We covered how teams in the US - with guidance from OSHA - are working on fitting jobs to people, rather than forcing a workers’ body to fit a job.
One of the primary ways to ‘fit a job to a worker’ and facilitate an ergonomic approach with regard to HAV, is to ensure that tools are designed with ergonomics in mind. The experts at Milwaukee Tool identify three primary considerations for designers of ergonomic tools to consider:
1. Weight: ensuring that a tool is balanced and lightweight
2. Grip: designing a tool for increased stability and more even distribution of force and vibrations, and ensuring that a worker need only apply minimum pressure to operate the tool
3. Shape: accommodating the human body with the design of a tool, as opposed to requiring a worker to strain in order to use it.
In addition to adopting ergonomic tools in the workplace, there are other key ways that teams can meaningfully address and manage exposure to HAV, in the absence of a robust regulatory scheme.
R-Link: A Data-Driven Approach to Support HAV Management
1. Implement vibration-reducing measures: One of the key vibration-reducing measures that an employer can easily implement is to provide breaks for team members using vibrating tools, and to rotate workers through tasks in order to reduce the amount of time spent using vibrating tools.
Historically, teams have managed breaks and rotations with a paper and pen. This method is outdated and likely to result in inadequate controls. With a modern solution like Reactec’s R-Link, individual workers have real-time information about their exposure
to vibration. This enables them to take action - like taking a break or switching tasks - when their personal exposure threshold is reached.
Armed with this clear, reliable information, teams are equipped to swiftly take meaningful action to reduce their exposure to vibration when it’s needed most.
2. Limit the use of vibrating tools: Using non-vibrating tools when possible is an easy, effective way to reduce workers’ exposure to vibration. And where that isn’t possible, it’s key that workers have the information they need to ensure that they’re not exceeding safe levels of vibration exposure.
With R-Link, workers have direct, real-time insight into their personal exposure. This information empowers them to take control and implement effective, in-the-moment controls, like switching tasks or rotating tools, without the need for intervention or additional support.
3. Maintain and inspect tools regularly: Tools in poor condition can generate increased levels of vibration. Keeping tools in good repair is one key way to ensure that workers aren’t exposed to unsafe levels of vibration in the workplace. This isn’t only due to the fact that tool performance can deteriorate over time: keeping tools in tip-top shape can also combat issues caused by operator competency.
It can be difficult to know when a tool needs to be refurbished or replaced. Manufacturer’s guidelines are a good resource for teams to use to gain an idea of tool lifespan and care, but due to wide variations in frequency of use, operator competency, and several other factors that influence tool condition over time - it’s critical that teams have access to more concrete information in order to effectively manage or reduce their exposure to vibration.
R-Link is powered by powerful Analytics, which give teams a 360-degree view of their risk environment with regards to HAV. Data is constantly collected by Reactec’s Analytics behind the scenes, and automatically transformed into meaningful, actionable insights that teams can use to adjust behaviour and refine controls. Critically, this data includes details of tools used by specific operators during specific time periods.
With this insight at your fingertips, you can view and compare tool vibration magnitude to help spot any potential tool condition issues, and make it easier to select the lowest-vibration tools for a given task.
When deployed alongside an ergonomic approach to HAV management, R-Link can provide the detail and insight that your team needs to fully understand - and take control of - your risk environment.