Karbon Homes upgrade to R-Link for monitoring hand-arm vibration

Protecting frontline workers from exposure to vibration

Case study - HAVS

Building new communities

Karbon Homes build and maintain affordable homes for all members of the community, from those who are just entering the property ladder to older residents who want to live more independently.

The housing association adopt new technology to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of maintenance teams as they work to develop new communities.

It’s almost a year to the day since Karbon Homes implemented R-Link to protect their teams from exposure to hand-arm vibration (HAV). 

We caught-up Ground Maintenance Team Leaders, Paul Walton and Adam Birks, to learn more about the impact made from this technology.

Managing varying vibration magnitudes:

“We’re focussed on looking after all of our staff” began Paul.

“We have young apprentices entering the workforce, with a whole career ahead of them, and experienced workers nearing retirement, who have spent an entire lifetime on the tools”.

Paul explained that the challenge for Karbon Homes managing exposure to vibration was maintaining an effective process which would cater for the amount, and variety, of tools that their operatives would use each day.

“Karbon Homes have in the region of 48 grounds maintenance workers spread across five sites, and we monitor hand-arm vibration on a regular basis, to ensure we manage exposure to HAV as low as reasonably practical”.

Paul added: “The types of tools range from stump grinders to strimmers and these vibration magnitudes are vastly different. So, trying to monitor that effectively, using sheets of paper, was near-impossible”.

“We’ve used several vibration monitoring technologies in the past, since moving from paper-based methods” said Adam. “These technologies were quite bulky to wear, and in some cases, to even store. In the end, we found Reactec’s technology among the most suited and best available”.

“The information that’s available on the R-Link watch face, like the time remaining on the tool, is much more useful when compared with other technologies we’ve tried”.

Paul Walton, Grounds Maintenance Team Leader

The transition from HAVwear:

Karbon Homes upgraded from Reactec’s vibration monitoring device, HAVwear, to the R-Link watch in early 2023.

“We held Toolbox Talks while rolling out R-Link. Reactec supported the transition from HAVwear by supplying training materials and ‘how to’ posters, which we display around our offices” said Paul.

“We also felt that Reactec’s team took the time to explain how the new watch works” added Paul.

Paul continued: “Using R-Link is very similar to HAVwear, so our operatives have had no real issues adopting the technology and found it more comfortable to wear”.

Adam added: “We consider R-Link to be better than HAVwear. It’s like a smart watch and is much easier to operate”.

Paul added: “We find that the R-Link battery readily lasts for a full-day and the Silicone watchstrap is more practical than HAVwear’s Velcro strap, which was more difficult to keep clean”.

“The information that’s available on the R-Link watch face, like the time remaining on the tool, is also much more useful when compared with other technologies we’ve tried”.

Electronic paper-trail:

“Another defining factor for staying with Reactec was that all our historical data is stored on Reactec Analytics and we didn’t want to lose such a significant paper-trail of information” said Paul.

Adam explained: “Previously we used a combination of paper-copies and the HAV calculator on the HSE website, but now we have all the information that we need stored online in the Reactec Analytics. The dashboards have been a massive help, it makes our lives so much easier”.

Paul said: “We receive Operator Average Exposure reports on a weekly basis and scrutinise the data to identify if any members of our team are close to exceeding exposure action levels”.

“With R-Link, an operative is alerted when they reach 100 points and we have a process in place where the operative knows to rotate the task, or switch to an alternative hand-tool if that’s possible” said Adam.

“We can also monitor if this process has been followed using Reactec Analytics” added Paul.

Health surveillance:

Paul added: “We link our health surveillance to Reactec Analytics which is crucial if a member of staff has a medical history of a hand or upper-limb injury".

Paul explained: “One of our staff recently underwent an operation for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and expressed concern about losing their job”.

“Upon their return to work, we made reasonable adjustments to their daily activities by supplying them with more battery-operated tools, which emit less vibration”.

“We also closely monitored the operative’s vibration exposure points on R-Link to make sure it was always considerably lower than the action limit value”.

"R-Link can give us further insight and the peace of mind that we’re doing everything we can to protect our operatives from exposure to hand-arm vibration and prevent the onset of injury in later life”.

Adam Birks, Grounds Maintenance Team Leader

Tool usage and condition:

In addition to monitoring the health and wellbeing of their employees, Karbon Homes use the Top Tools report in Reactec Analytics to assess the usage and condition of equipment.

Adam explained: “If a tool vibration magnitude reading has a much higher output than expected, we investigate if this is a result of an operative misusing the tool, or if there are any defects.

Paul added: “In one recent case, we found that the bearing had gone on one of the mowers and we were able to replace that piece of equipment relatively quickly”.

“We monitor high outputs closely. Generally, we find that the output can be a lot higher than the manufacturer’s predetermine vibration magnitude, when operatives are performing hedge reductions for instance” said Adam.

“This is where R-Link can give us further insight and the peace of mind that we’re doing everything we can to protect our operatives from exposure to hand-arm vibration and prevent the onset of injury in later life”.

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