Control of Vibration at Work Regulations
July 6th 2005 saw new regulations come into place to protect workers from risks to their health from using machinery causing vibration. These new regulations set new standards in the workplace, introducing vibration limits per action and set absolute maximum limit values for hand-arm and whole-body vibration.
The changes came in to address the raises in numbers of workers with HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome). This is a serious condition which is caused by vibration damage and can occur in the hands, arms, fingers and shoulders when working in an environment with heavy vibrations – such as a carpentry shop.
Without going into too much detail, vibration injuries are often subcategorised into three groups:
- Neurological (nerves)
- Musculoskeletal (muscular or skeletal)
- Vascular (blood cells, veins etc)
These groups address the area of the body that is damaged by the vibration, such as arthritis in the hand (Musculoskeletal) or Carpal tunnel (Neurological).
If you think you are suffering from any numbness, limited dexterity, whiteness, tendonitis or similar conditions from your hands, arms or similar, be sure to check with your GP. It may not be because of vibration, but it could still be serious and needs to be looked at!
What are the 2005 limitations to hand-arm vibration?
An employee’s exposure to vibration must not exceed an action value of 2.5 m/s2 A(8). After this point, employers are required to introduce organisational and technical measures to reduce exposure.
There is also a ‘new’ exposure limit value of 5.0 m/s2 A(8), which is described as to ‘never be exceeded’. This is the absolute limit at which machine operators can be exposed.
When the new Vibration at Work regulations were introduced, there was a transitional period allowed to employers from 2005 until 2010 for work which involves exposure to hand-arm vibration. Older tools and machinery cannot keep exposures below the later imposed limits, so this period allowed for employers to ensure they had updated their machinery to conform.
How was it enforced?
Inspectors were employed and instructed to act in accordance with the new laws, preventing damage to employee health when employers failed to abide with the law. Punishments for exceeding the limit value could be dramatic.
Why the new regulations?
As covered above, injuries relating to vibration became concerning. The regulations in 2005 were based on an earlier European Union Directive which outlined similar fundamental laws on preserving worker health against workplace vibration. Please be advised that members of the public performing non-work tasks are not covered by the directives.
The 2005 regulations are detailed to be more specific compared to earlier iterations of workplace/health regulations, such as the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – which also still apply!
If all employers complied with the vibration regulations and followed the available guidance, it was theorised that any new hand-arm vibration incidences would be eliminated by 2015 – and further help prevent development of HAVS in more workers.