Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS) in the Workplace

What is Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS)?

Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, often shortened to HAVS within industry, is the name given to injuries caused by the use of hand held vibrating tools through vibration exposure to the hands and arms. HAVS can cause significant ill health, and many of the symptoms are irreversible, e.g. painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.

The most common health effect of HAVS within industry is Vibration White Finger (VWF), a debilitating condition that can often leave pain, tingling, numbness and a whitening of the fingers. As a result, workers are unable to carry out fine tasks and can eventually struggle to perform every day tasks such as buttoning up a shirt.

Hand Arm Vibration (HAVS) is only ever caused by exposure to vibration and is entirely preventable, but once damage has occurred it is permanent.

Castle Vexo Hand Arm Vibration Meter

Employers have the responsibility of protecting their employees against HAVS under The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. Measures should be put in place to reduce the risks associated with Hand Arm Vibration, and managers should implement a Hand Arm Vibration safety procedure.

By law, employers need to measure the levels of vibration that their employees are being exposed to, as well as assessing the risk to their employee’s health from vibration at work. Find out more about our 3 Day Competent Persons Training Course in Hand Arm Vibration.

Hand Arm Vibration Facts and Figures

– – – Nearly 2 million people are at risk of HAVS in the UK – – –

– – – Operator training is a valuable step towards a more responsible HAVS safety culture – – –

– – – Organisations are at risk of heft fines if there are no control measures in place – – –

How to manage Hand Arm Vibration in the workplace

If any of your employees operate vibrating tools and equipment then you must assess the vibration exposure risk to your employees. Managing the risk of HAVS is a legal duty under The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, and neglecting to take action can lead to serious consequences for both the organisation and it’s employees.

Risks to the Organisation

  • Heavy fines
  • Personal Injury compensation Claims
  • HSE Interventions
  • Low morale and a reduction in productivity due to colleague injuries
  • Poor publicity in the media

Risks to Employees

  • Raynauds / Whitefinger Disease
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Inability to work in damp and cold conditions
  • A reduction in grip strength
  • Negatively affect the ability to carry out fine work

Is your workplace at risk of Hand Arm Vibration issues?

Hand Arm Vibration Exposure from JackhammerIf your employees frequently work with vibrating equipment and/or handle vibrating materials then it’s possible that you have an issue. At this point the most important thing you need to do is to carry out a Hand Arm Vibration Risk Assessment.

You will need to:

  • Identify where the vibration risk is and who is likely to be affected
  • Determine exposure levels
  • Determine exposure duration
  • Identify which, if any, employees needing health surveillance
  • Identify what you need to do to comply with the regulations and the law. E.g.
    • implement vibration control measures
    • implement a variation of job role to limit exposure
    • change shift procedures
    • invest in low vibration equipment

What is the Law on Hand Arm Vibration?

The law requires companies to assess the risk of injury from vibratory tools in the workplace, and measuring the vibration magnitude of the operator’s tools is the most accurate method of determining operator exposure. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 aim to protect workers from health risks due to vibration. In regards to Hand Arm Vibration, the Regulations introduce an:

  • Exposure Action Value of 2.5 m/s2 A(8) at which employers should introduce measures in order to reduce exposure
  • Exposure Limit Value of 5.0 m/s2 A(8) which should not be exceeded

Read more about Vibration Exposure levels in this short article.

Health Surveillance for Hand Arm Vibration

Health surveillance is a must for all of your employees who are likely be regularly exposed above the Exposure Action Value, despite your actions to control the risk. The purpose of health surveillance is to:Hand Arm Vibration Health Surveillance Kit

  • Identify anyone exposed or about to be exposed to hand-arm vibration who may be at particular risk
  • Identify any issues early in employees regularly exposed to hand-arm vibration
  • Check the effectiveness of your vibration control measures

Tier 3 of the HSE’s guide to Health Surveillance involves a health assessment by a qualified person using a range of health surveillance equipment.

Common pieces of health assessment equipment for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome are:

  • Hand Dynamometer to assess grip strength
  • Purdue Pegboard to determine dexterity
  • Touch Sensory Evaluators to determine the sensitivity of fingertips

We’ve created a Health Surveillance Testing Kit which comprises everything you would need to carry out tier 3 of the HSE’s Health Surveillance guide. View our Health Surveillance for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome Testing Kit.

Measuring the Vibration Levels of  your Tools

The most accurate way to determine the true vibration exposure that your employee’s are subject to is to measure the vibration levels of your tools.

If you don’t measure the vibration levels of your own tools, you’re extremely like to lose any HAVS claim if it goes to court.

With the right equipment measurements can be straightforwards, but because of the many variables in the measurement process you must be able to detect if readings are incorrect. This is where formal training can be an invaluable asset to any Health and Safety manager tasked with carrying out Hand Arm Vibration risk assessments. Find out more about our 3 Day Competent Persons Training Course in Hand Arm Vibration.

Do Hand Arm Vibration Measurements Need to be Taken on the Tool or are Hand Held Mounts Compliant?

Yes, Hand Arm Vibration measurements should be made with the accelerometer firmly attached to the vibrating surface of the tool, as close to the hand grip position as possible. Find out more about taking accurate and compliant measurements.

Accurately Monitoring Exposure Times to Vibration

Determine vibration exposure levels of your tools is only half of your battle. The other key issue is the timed duration of which workers are exposed to vibration.

Measuring employee’s exposure time to vibration is an essential part of a vibration risk assessment, whether you do it manually with a stopwatch or automatically with a vibration tool timer. Vibration tool timers offer a valuable method of accurately measuring timed exposure.

Only with both the Vibration Level and the Timed Exposure can you start to control Vibration Exposure under the HSE’s Exposure Levels.

Find out more about the different types of Tool Timers available or browse and buy online.

Explaining the Technical Terms found in Hand Arm Vibration

Aeq Acceleration Equivalent Value –

Once you have measured a tool, the result will be given as an Aeq. The term Aeq simply stands for the Acceleration equivalent value. Acceleration is the vibration parameter used in human vibration measurements and is measured in metres per second squared (m/s2). The ‘equivalent’ part of the term simply means the average vibration level.

Techie bit – Aeq is a single number that represents the equivalent energy of a varying source. In other words you get the same amount of energy from the varying vibration level as you would

from the continuous, equivalent value. You can expect results to range from around 0.5m/s2 to about 20m/s2 although this is only a rough guide and we have measured equipment as high as 30m/s2. Anything above 25m/s2 would be considered to be extremely high.

M/s2 Meters per Second Squared –

Meters per second squared, or M/s2, is the standardised measurement unit of acceleration or vector magnitude. Within vibration monitoring M/s2 is defined either as an average over time or as an instantaneous reading.

RMS Root Mean Squared Amplitude –

Root Mean Square Amplitude, or RMS, is the square root of the average of the squared values of the vibration waveform.

RMS takes into account the time history of the waveform, giving an amplitude value which directly relates to the energy content. RMS is therefore considered the most relevant measure of amplitude in order to assess levels of damage.

EAV Exposure Action Value –

The Exposure Action Value is a daily amount of exposure which employers are required to take action to control exposure to eliminate risk or reduce exposure to as low as is reasonably practicable.  Set and enforced by The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, the EAV level is set at 2.5 m/s² average over 8 hours (A(8)).

ELV Exposure Limit Value –

The Exposure Limit Value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. The Exposure Limit Value is the level of exposure where employers must take immediate action to reduce their exposure below the limit value. The EAV level is set at 5 m/s2 average over 8 hours (A(8)).

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