Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

The Hidden Risks

Introduction

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 covers Hand-Arm (HAV) and Whole-Body Vibration (WBV) and represents a formalised approach to human vibration risk assessment and control. We outline the requirements of the Regulations and explains some of the terminology

The regulations introduce Action and Limit values, compulsory health surveillance, weekly averaging and stricter monitoring protocols, this piece of law has more to it than might appear on the surface.

There is also another major hidden issue not addressed by this legislation and one that industry must take into account and that is potential litigation; it is very often the case that complying with the regulations will only take you part way to protecting your organisation from claims!

The legislation text can be downloaded from the HSE web site and a guidance book is available from HSE books, which is a must for anyone with potential Vibration risks.

Getting a Grip on the Regulations!

There is no substitute for reading the guidance notes in full or attending a competence training course, but this article will review the major points of the regulations and looks at a few specific issues that arise.

New Levels

The main thrust of this new law is to lower the acceptable levels of Vibration exposure, above which both employers and employees are required to take action.

A(8) Daily Exposure LevelsPrevious GuidanceControl of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005
Hand-Arm Vibration
Exposure Action Value2.8 m/s2*2.5 m/s2
Exposure Limit ValueNone5 m/s2
Whole Body Vibration
Exposure Action ValueNone0.5 m/s2
Exposure Limit ValueNone1.15 m/s2

* Note that 2.8m/s2 is a dominant axis value whereas all other values are given as sum of squares of 3 axes.

It may look like the new action value for Hand Arm Vibration of 2.5m/s2 is only a little lower than the old one of 2.8m/s2, however, this is not necessarily the case and it is more like an increase from 2.8m/s2 to 4m/s2! The techie explanation is below.

The previous guidance gives an A(8) action level of 2.8m/s2, but this is a dominant axis value (simply the biggest value of 3 directions of measurement). The new regulations give the value as a sum of these 3 measurements so the two cannot easily be compared. A good approximation is to say that a dominant axis value of 4m/s2 could be compared to the new levels.

Exposure Limit Values

There is now an Exposure Limit Value built into these regulations, set at 5m/s2 for HAV and 1.15m/s2 for WBV. This is the maximum level of vibration that an employee may be exposed to. How much this affects industry is largely down to the approach of HSE inspectors

For companies who purchased any equipment before 6 July 2007, there is an exemption from the Limit value until 6 July 2010. There is also an exemption until 6 July 2014 for the agriculture and forestry industry for the Whole-body Vibration Exposure Limit Value. Once again, care should be taken as using these derogations is no defence in a civil claim!

Be Careful with Weekly Averaging

There is now a specific regulation allowing vibration exposure to be averaged over a working week. This means if an employee is exposed to high levels on just one or two days, then averaging over a week will reduce the calculated exposure level. Care should be taken when applying this and it may well be worth asking your HSE contact the best way to use it, if at all.

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