Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), also known as Vibration White Finger, is a condition triggered by long-term continuous use of vibrating hand-held machinery. Over time, the condition can leave a tingling or numbness in the fingers, a sensitivity to cold weather, or even loss of manual dexterity.
It might not sound like the most obvious health risk in the workplace, but HAVS is the most widely reported health issue under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR). Some 8,990 cases were reported across the UK in the last 10 years, with 610 in 2014 alone, demonstrating how common an issue it is.
HAVS has been reportable under RIDDOR since 1995 and, under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, employers have a duty to monitor and manage vibration levels from workplace tools and implements to minimise the risk to their team members. To meet regulatory requirements, employers have to ensure that the Exposure Action Value – a recommended limit on vibration levels – across their workplace remains below an average of 2.5 m/s2over eight hours, or no more than 100 HSE points per day. In addition, they have to achieve an Exposure Limit Value – a maximum vibration figure – no higher than five m/s2 over eight hours, or 400 HSE points per day. Recent cases of breaching the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 have resulted in fines in excess of £250,000.
So, what can be done to manage the risk?
Here are four steps to complying with the regulations around HAVS and protecting your team members:
It’s important to determine which, if any, equipment poses a hazard, and also work out how many workers use it, and for how long each day in order to take the first step to putting vibration controls in place.
Real world vibration levels can vary from those identified in the lab so, once the hazards have been established, it is crucial to measure the vibration emitted by equipment when in operation. Don’t forget to monitor the length of time each worker uses vibrating machinery to ensure it doesn’t exceed safety levels.
Once hazard levels have been measured across the organisation, it’s time to put controls in place to minimise the amount of vibration emitted by all equipment and/or to reduce exposure times.
With controls in place, it’s important to regularly monitor workers’ use of at risk machinery to ensure they are not over-exposed to vibration.
In any workplace, HAVS is just as serious a health issue as noise or dust. By measuring vibration levels across your organisation and taking steps to limit exposure, you can help protect workers, ensuring their long-term wellbeing.
If you need support in measuring, monitoring or managing HAVS risk in your workplace, contact the SOCOTEC team.