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Health & Safety Advice: Hand-Arm Vibration in the Workplace


Employers (and the self-employed) may need to protect their employees from the risk of hand-arm vibration. The following information is intended to assist in identifying if there is a risk to workers and how the risk can be managed.

Q. What is hand-arm vibration?
A. It is vibration transmitted into hands and arms from the use of hand-held power tools (such as grinders, breakers or drills) and hand-guided equipment (such as walk behind gardening equipment or pedestrian controlled compactors).

Q. Which jobs are likely to involve regular and frequent exposure?
A. Construction and civil works, engineering and the manufacturing industry, maintenance of parks, gardens, grounds etc., utilities (gas, water, telecoms), motor vehicle industry. (This list is not inclusive)

Q. Why is this an issue?
A. Regular and frequent exposure can lead to two forms of permanent illness known as ‘hand-arm vibration syndrome’ (HAVS) and ‘carpel tunnel syndrome’ (CTS).

Q. How does this affect the equipment offered for hire?
A. Didcot Plant has as a supplier a duty to display the vibration emission value of the equipment it hires which can lead to vibration related risks from its use.

Q. Why is this relevant?
A. Any employer must by law protect their employees from the risk of hand-arm vibration by complying with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (the Vibration Regulations).

Q. Which tools are most likely to create a risk?
A. Didcot Plant has a comprehensive chart by catalogue category, listing description, make and model and vibration emission value. View the chart here.

Q. How is the risk assessed and calculated.
A. By using the emission value of the equipment, quoted in m/s2 (metres per second squared) and the period of time the equipment is being used, exposure ‘Points’ are calculated (using the points ready reckoner below). For example, a tool rated at 5m/s2 used for three hours gives 150 exposure points. The total limit not to be exceeded per 8 hour working day is 400 points.

To assist in quickly identifying equipment which can pose a risk, a simple coloured coded traffic light system has been developed and the exposure values are displayed as follows.

  • Green (Low Vibration Risk)
  • Amber (Medium Vibration Risk)
  • Red (High Vibration Risk)

In conjunction with the chart, our equipment is tagged with the same colour coding and emission value to assist in risk assessment.

For advice on recognising the medical symptoms, guidance and a detailed on-line exposure calculator relating to hand-arm vibration at work, please use the following link: http://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/vibrationcalc.htm

Chart showing tool vibration and exposure time