What is Whole Body Vibration?

What is Whole Body Vibration and what are it’s effects?

Vibration that is transmitted through the seat or feet is known as Whole Body Vibration (WBV). WBV is caused by machinery vibrating passing through the buttocks of seated people of the feet of standing people. Exposure is most commonly caused through the driving of machinery over rough or uneven surfaces, such as tractors, fork lift trucks and ride on mowers.

Vibration measurements on a ride on mower

At present, the relative importance of WBV is not clear, however it’s generally agreed that over exposure to vibration can cause injury.

Whole Body Vibration is treated in a similar way to Hand Arm Vibration (HAV), and the law dictates an Exposure Action Values and Limit Values as with HAV.

Injuries caused by Whole Body Vibration exposure

Over exposure to vibration can cause injury and the most widely reported injury is back pain, generally in the lower back. The cause of lower back pain can be complex due to the structure in the lower back, but the following are examples of potential reasons:

  • The large nerve roots in the lower back that go to the legs and arms may be irritated
  • The bones, ligaments or joints may be injured
  • The inter-vertebral disc may be injured

Large jolts and shocks could cause serious health issues, and, because of this, measures should be put in place to try and prevent it. By law, employers have to measure the levels of vibration their employees are being exposed to and then assess the risk to their employee’s health from vibration at work.

What is the Law on Whole Body Vibration?

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The law requires companies to assess the risk of injury from vibration in the workplace. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 aim to protect workers from health risks due to vibration. In regards to Whole Body Vibration, the Regulations introduce an:

  • Exposure Action Value of 0.5 m/s2 A(8) at which employers should introduce measures in order to reduce exposure.
  • Exposure Limit Value of 1.15 m/s2 A(8) which should not be exceeded.

A study by MRC in 1999 found that 20,000 individuals in the UK are exposed above the Exposure Limit Value, generally in agriculture, mining, quarrying and construction.

What are the Employer’s responsibilities?

Employers are responsible for preventing their employees risk from exposure to vibration. Some of their responsibilities could include:

  • Introducing control measures if their employees daily exposure to vibration is likely to exceed the exposure action value.
  • Not exposing your employees above the exposure limit value.

You should take particular care with employees who are particularly sensitive and try to keep their exposure to a minimum. To achieve this, you may need to measure the levels of vibration that your employees are being exposed to with a vibration meter.


How can an Employer prevent Whole Body Vibration?

There are several ways an employer can control employee’s exposure to Whole Body Vibration, for example:

  • Monitoring exposure times
  • Controlling employee’s daily usage of certain equipment where necessary
  • Introducing anti-vibration technologies to reduce the level of vibration emitted
  • Choosing appropriate working equipment
  • Regularly maintaining machinery, including vehicles

You can learn to be classed as a Competent Person on our three day training course in Hand Arm and Whole Body Vibration protection.

Whole Body Vibration Training Course

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