Controlling The Risk

How do I control the risks from hand-arm vibration?

When you have identified who is at risk, you need to decide how you can reduce the risks. You must do all that is reasonable to control the risk. First, prepare an action plan for and deal with the high-risk work tasks. Then address the medium and lower-risk activities.

Risk controls include:

Alternative work methods

  • Look for alternative work methods which eliminate or reduce exposure to vibration. Your trade association, other industry contacts, equipment suppliers and trade journals may help you identify good practice in your industry.
  • Mechanise or automate the work.

Example: Use a breaker attachment on an excavating machine to break concrete rather than using a hand-held breaker.

Equipment selection

  • Make sure that equipment selected or allocated for tasks is suitable and can do the work efficiently. Equipment that is unsuitable, too small or not powerful enough is likely to take much longer to complete the task and expose employees to vibration for longer than is necessary.
  • Select the lowest vibration tool that is suitable and can do the work efficiently.
  • Limit the use of high-vibration tools wherever possible.

Example: To cut large holes in brickwork, use a diamond-tipped hole-cutting drill bit with a rotary action rather than a tungsten-tipped hole bit which requires rotary and hammer action.

Purchasing policy for replacing old equipment and tools

Work equipment is likely to be replaced over time as it becomes worn out, and it is important that you choose replacements, so far as is reasonably practicable, which are suitable for the work, efficient and of lower vibration.

Discuss your requirements with a range of suppliers.

  • Check with suppliers that their equipment is suitable and will be effective for the work, compare vibration emission information for different brands/models of equipment, ask for vibration information for the way you plan to use the equipment, and ask for information on any training requirements for safe operation.
  • Get your employees to try the different models and brands of equipment and take account of their opinions before you decide which to buy.
  • Find out about the equipment’s vibration-reduction features and how to use and maintain the equipment to make these features effective.
  • Make sure your organisation has a policy on purchasing suitable equipment, taking account of vibration emission, efficiency and your specific requirements. Control the risks from hand-arm vibration 8 of 12 pages Health and Safety Executive
  • Train purchasing staff on the issues relating to vibration so that they can deal effectively with equipment suppliers.

Example: If a breaker has vibration-isolating handles, check how the machine must be operated to ensure the reduced vibration levels are achieved in use and ensure your operators have the necessary training.

Workstation design

  • Improve the design of workstations to minimise loads on employees’ hands, wrists and arms caused by poor posture.
  • Use devices such as jigs and suspension systems to reduce the need to grip heavy tools tightly.

Example: Where a heavy grinder is used at a permanent workstation to do repetitive work, suspend it from a counterbalance system to reduce the load on the operator’s arms and the tightness of grip needed.

Maintenance

  • Introduce appropriate maintenance programmes for your equipment to prevent avoidable increases in vibration (following the manufacturer’s recommendations where appropriate).
  • Do not use blunt or damaged concrete breaker and chipping hammer chisels and replace consumable items such as grinding wheels, so that equipment is efficient and keeps employee exposure as short as possible.

Example: Check and sharpen chainsaw teeth regularly (following the manufacturer’s recommendations) to maintain the chainsaw’s efficiency and to reduce the time it takes to complete the work.

Work schedules

  • Limit the time that your employees are exposed to vibration.
  • Plan work to avoid individuals being exposed to vibration for long, continuous periods – several shorter periods are preferable.
  • Where tools require continual or frequent use, introduce employee rotas to limit exposure times (you should avoid employees being exposed for periods which are long enough to put them in the high risk group.

Example: Organise employees to work in teams where they switch tasks within the team to avoid individuals having unnecessarily high exposure to vibration.

Clothing

  • Provide your employees with protective clothing when necessary to keep them warm and dry. This will encourage good blood circulation which should help protect them from developing vibration white finger.
  • Gloves can be used to keep hands warm, but should not be relied upon to provide protection from vibration.

How do I know if the steps I have taken to control risks are working?

  • Check regularly that the programme of controls you have introduced is being carried out by your managers and employees.
  • Talk regularly to your managers, supervisors, employees and trade union safety representative or employee representative about whether there are any vibration problems with the equipment or the way it is being used.
  • Check the results of health surveillance and discuss with the health service provider whether the controls appear to be effective or need to be changed.
     

Testimonial:

Everton Football Club - Richard Cairns, Health & Safety Manager

“Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome is not just a problem for people using industrial power tools in the construction or manufacturing sectors – it can affect anyone who regularly uses other vibrating equipment including mowers and strimmers. We have dozens of lawnmowers that are in daily use at Goodison Park and our training complex at Finch Farm, so we have to have a monitoring system that is simple and effective. “In the past we relied on timesheets and individual record-keeping to monitor vibration exposure, but the HAVmeter system is a far superior method of doing this. All of the information is collated by the devices and provides us with a comprehensive overview of how much exposure each member of staff is subjected to. If they reach the safe limit stipulated by the HSE, then they are alerted to the danger at once – meaning there is no chance of over-exposure. “However, it is not just a good tool for preventing injuries. The system allows us to generate reports about the vibration levels of our equipment, so we can identify which machines need to be replaced or upgraded. It’s a very versatile piece of kit that will continue to be hugely beneficial to our groundskeeping operations in the future.”