Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 - why is it relevant to FM?

Introduction

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 came into force on 6th July 2005 under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. This is the implementation of the European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive 2002. Two distinct areas are dealt with in the regulations, Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) and Whole Body Vibration (WBV).  The regulations introduce action and limit values for hand, arm and whole body vibration.

Hand Arm Vibration – Symptoms

Early signs and symptoms include numbness, tingling, reduced sense of touch, loss of strength and vibration white finger. Longer term symptoms include permanent numbness, difficulty in picking up small objects and vibration white finger occurring on a more frequent basis.

Hand Arm Vibration – Employer’s duties

The employer’s duties under the regulations are similar to the previous HSE guidance on HAV (HSG88, 1994).  You should:

  • Ensure the health and safety of employees;
  • Carry out a risk assessment;
  • Have a hierarchy of measures to achieve control;
  • Provide information, instruction and training for employees; and
  • Provide health surveillance.

Hand Arm Vibration – Exposure limits

There are two components, Exposure Action Value (EAV) and Exposure Limit Value (ELV).

EAV is 2.5 m/s2 A(8) 3D.  This is the level at which employers should introduce technical and organisational measures to reduce exposure.  This is not to be considered a “safe” level, but the level to be avoided.  Typically, exposures are below the EAV if the “trigger time” is short. ELV is 5 m/s2 A(8) 3D.  This level should not be exceeded.

Duties of the employer are to:

  • Assess vibration risks;
  • Eliminate risks at source, or reduce to lowest practical level; and
  • Provide information and training to employees.

Where EAV is likely to be exceeded, you should reduce exposure to the lowest reasonably practicable level and introduce health surveillance. Where ELV is concerned, ensure that your employees are not exposed above the ELV and take immediate action to prevent recurrence.

HAV is caused by the use of hand-held power tools and can cause significant ill health. ELV should limit the worst exposure and will affect a significant number of workers.  Work process changes will usually be needed to minimise exposure.

HAV Risk Assessment – Employer’s duties

An HAV risk assessment must look for evidence of risk and solutions, and include exposure assessments to identify the levels involved. Vibration information is becoming available from manufacturers and information is also available from other studies and sources, as well as workplace measurements. Rule of thumb for some tools:

  • Rotary tools EAV is one hour and ELV is four hours (But this could be less than one hour for some tools).
  • Control the exposure by changing the process, selecting suitable reduced vibration equipment, operator training, maintenance of equipment, time limits and job rotation.

Tool manufacturers are introducing a traffic light system: green - up to eight hours, amber - up to two hours and red - refer to supervisor.

Whole Body Vibration (WBV) – Symptoms

Whole body vibration occurs where commercial, industrial and construction vehicles are driven regularly for most of the day. It is mostly associated with back pain, together with other factors such as poor posture and heavy lifting.  Again, there are two components, Exposure Action Value (EAV) and Exposure Limit Value (ELV). 

  • EAV is 0.5 m/s2 A(8) 1D. At this level employers should introduce technical and organisational measures to reduce exposure.
  •  ELV is 1.15 m/s2 A(8) 1D. Limit value introduced. This may be a significant challenge for some industries.  There is a transition period until 2010, and 2014 for the agriculture and forestry sections.

Whole Body Vibration – Employer’s duties

Duties of employers are to:

  • Assess vibration risks;
  • Eliminate risks at source, or reduce to lowest practicable level; and
  • Provide information and training to employees.

ELV is not anticipated to affect significant numbers of workers. Ergonomics are always important in managing WBV.  Shocks and jolts are a contributory factor to the risk involved.  Existing health problems can also be aggravated by WBV and can result in raised concerns by employees.

WBV in road vehicles is of little concern. Industrial vehicles on inappropriate surfaces may cause some concern, but off-road machinery in agriculture, construction, mining, quarrying and forestry is the area of main concern.

This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Assurity Consulting. Assurity Consulting is the UK's leading independent compliance consultancy specialising in workplace health, safety and environmental solutions. We have over 30 years' experience of helping customers of all sizes, from across all sectors, manage their compliance responsibilities, making sure that their organisation is compliant, their employees are safe, their processes are cost effective and their management team is in control.

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