What can employers do to prevent vibration-related injuries?

Last updated: 03 Mar 2020

The main regulations covering hand-arm and whole-body vibration are the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. They require employers to:

  • control health risks from vibration
  • provide information, instruction and training to employees on the risk and the actions being taken to control risk
  • provide suitable health surveillance, to identify any harm early on so that appropriate action can be taken.

The regulations set out legal thresholds for both hand-arm vibration and whole-body vibration – known as the “action value” and the “limit value”. As part of their risk assessment, employers must establish whether employees are exposed to vibration above these levels. As the name suggests, if vibration is found to be at or above the action values, then the employer has to take a particular course of action. The limit values must not be exceeded.

If an action value is exceeded, the employer must reduce employees’ vibration exposure. For hand-arm vibration, they should consider factors like:

  • limiting the time that employees are exposed to vibration, such as by introducing work rotas
  • planning work to avoid individuals being exposed to vibration for long, continuous spells
  • using alternative work methods which eliminate or reduce exposure
  • mechanising or automating the work
  • selecting the lowest vibration tool that can do the work efficiently
  • limiting the use of high-vibration tools wherever possible
  • introducing maintenance programmes for equipment to prevent increases in vibration.

When looking to reduce the risks posed by whole-body vibration, employers should consider factors like:

  • introducing working methods and materials that eliminate or reduce exposure
  • replacing manned with unmanned machines, if possible
  • choosing work equipment of appropriate ergonomic design
  • the type of seat and tyres
  • maintaining vehicles and unmade roads and ground conditions
  • limiting the duration and magnitude of exposure, ensuring work schedules have adequate rest periods
  • protecting employees from cold and damp.

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