Vibration through the whole body can damage a person¿s back. For example, a truck driver is exposed to vibration through the seat, foot pedals and steering wheel.
Vibration sent through the hand or arm from hand tools such as chainsaws and jackhammers affect blood circulation, and may contribute to disorders of the wrist and hand. The most common are Raynaud¿s syndrome, carpal tunnel syndrome and shoulder tendonitis.
Workers most at risk of vibration-related injuries to the back include operators/drivers of:
- compaction or hammering machinery
- construction vehicles
- industrial trucks
- agricultural machinery
- road haulage vehicles.
Additional risk factors are:
- poor driving posture and visibility
- difficult-to-operate controls
- poor vehicle suspension
- jobs that require lifting, carrying or driving off-road.
Workers who use rotating or similar hand-guided tools are most at risk of vibration-related injuries to the hands or wrists.
Injuries are more likely when:
- there is a high level of vibration (such as using a tool with vibrating frequencies between 4 and 300 Hz)
- when vibrating tools are used for long periods
- when vibrating tools are used in cold conditions
- individuals are at a greater risk of circulation-related problems (such as smokers).
Ways to control hazards
- Assess the health risks and review the time a person works continuously with vibrating machines or vehicles.
- Modify tools, equipment and work processes to reduce exposure to vibration.
Whole body vibration
- Buy low-vibration vehicles suited to the ground surface. If possible, improve ground surfaces.
- Use the correct tyres inflated to the correct pressure for the ground surface.
- Improve vehicle suspension and use correctly-adjusted operator seats mounted on suspension systems.
- Isolate or damp vibrating work platforms through appropriate suspensions.
- Operate equipment at suggested speeds.
- Limit the time spent working with vibrating surfaces or machines, and take regular breaks.
- Regularly maintain equipment to reduce vibration developing.
- Consult with workers. Train them in the safe use of vibrating machinery.
- Use anti-fatigue mats and wear footwear with vibration absorbing soles.
Hand and arm vibration
- Avoid tools with vibration in the range of 4 ¿ 300 Hz for tasks performed repeatedly. Treat any tool as suspicious if it causes tingling or numbness in the fingers after five to 10 minutes of use.
- Consult with workers over their choice of tools. Train in the safe use of hand tools.
- Use tools with speed adjustment, internal damping, vibration-isolated handles or an automatic shutoff ability. Use low vibration tool accessories.
- Use air cushioned cylinders, air shutoff clutches or properly selected isolation mounts.
- Cover tool handles with vibration-insulation rubber. Use a slip-resistant surface on handles to reduce the grip force needed.
- Regularly maintain equipment. Keep cutters and chisels sharp. Lubricate bearings. Rebalance rotating equipment. Replace leaking compressed air valves.
- Use pressure regulators for air powered tools.
- Rotate workers who use vibrating tools
- Organise work processes so workers can do another type of work for about 10 minutes every hour.
- Use exhaust mufflers or baffles to direct cold air away from workers¿ hands.
- Use vibration-absorbing gloves that cover only the necessary part of the hand. However, this can reduce the ability to manipulate the tool or object being worked on.
- Keep the hands warm and dry.
More information on vibration is provided in the Manual Tasks Code of Practice 2010.