Managing Hand-arm Vibration in the United States
In the United States, about 2.5 million workers are exposed to hand-arm vibration (HAV) on a daily basis. This kind of daily occupational exposure - most common in the construction, heavy engineering, manufacturing, and rail industries (among others) - can lead to serious health consequences, including Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).
HAVS is referred to as a “cumulative trauma disorder.” Put simply: HAVS is the culmination of long-term exposure to occupational vibration, and results in a range of uncomfortable - and potentially debilitating - symptoms, including numbness or tingling in the fingers or hands, tendonitis, shaking, tremors, and more.
Despite the huge number of workers who could potentially suffer adverse effects from exposure to dangerous levels of vibration, currently there are no regulations in place in the United States that specifically address the management or prevention of exposure to vibration in the workplace. There are, however, increasing efforts to tackle this issue from an ergonomic standpoint, rather than a regulatory one.
What is an Ergonomic Approach to risk management with regards to HAV?
Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environments. In the workplace, ergonomics means designing an environment with the capabilities and limitations of the worker in mind. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration explains ergonomics as the practice of “fitting a job to a person,” rather than forcing a worker’s body to fit a job.
Ergonomically designed tools and machines in the workplace include common items like desk chairs with curved backs to support better posture; or standing workstations that encourage mobility. In the construction environment, specifically, specially crafted tools or devices help combat or mitigate a workers’ exposure to risk. This is accomplished by making the tools easier to grip or manoeuvre, or by adding a barrier between the operator and the source of the risk.
Milwaukee Tool - a leading developer of innovative tools and worksite solutions - explains the 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
Ultimately, striking the right balance between these key considerations can meaningfully reduce the amount of vibration to which a worker is exposed. According to OSHA, one of the most effective strategies for monitoring and managing exposure to vibration in the workplace is to adopt an ergonomic approach to working. This includes providing workers with ergonomically designed tools, and with information and education about more ergonomic ways of working.
Reactec: A Partner to Teams with an Ergonomic Strategy for HAVS Prevention
Reactec are experts in prevention engineering. Our focus is on providing teams with solutions that engineer risk out of the workplace, including risk from exposure to vibration. With decades of experience in HAVS prevention, our expert team is familiar with a range of products and approaches that can help keep your workers safer, even in harsh or demanding environments.
Reactec’s R-Link is an advanced, third generation workplace wearable that provides real-time alerts to notify workers of unsafe exposure levels to a number of known workplace threats, including vibration, noise, dust, and proximity to hazards. It’s an innovative, reliable solution for teams ready to take a more proactive approach to risk management in the workplace. Most critically, it’s proven to be effective at reducing exposure to dangerous levels of workplace risk
“I found the [R-Link] system very easy to use, the information received indicated the need to alter working methods and choice of tools to be used.”
R-Link is powered by Reactec’s powerful Analytics, a Cloud-based system that reliably, accurately collects and collates personalized data about individual workers’ levels of exposure before transforming it into clear, actionable insight that you can use to adjust your behaviour or refine your controls. And this process happens without any heavy lifting on your end: information is retrieved automatically from your workplace wearables before Analytics is performed on it behind the scenes. No fancy commands, coding, or computer work is required.
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.