HAVS refers to a series of permanent, but preventable, conditions in which damage to the nerves, blood vessels or joints of the hand, wrist and arm occur.
HAVS conditions can be disabling and painful, such as Vibration White Finger which limits a person’s ability to do fine detailed work and causes painful finger blanching.
HAVS is associated with the regular use of hand-held or hand-guided vibrating power tools which generate significant vibration exposure to the operator. Approximately two million workers in the UK use handheld/guided vibrating power tool.
Operative exposure is a combination of the vibration magnitude of the tool and the exposure duration. For example, a low vibrating tool used over extended periods of time can produce significant daily exposure. Whereas a tool with high vibration used for a short duration may not present a risk to health. When determining exposure duration, the ‘finger on the trigger’ time is used. It is important to note that some operatives may use a range of tools, so their daily exposure is a combination of all tool vibration exposures.
When undertaking a vibration survey, Validate Consulting will determine operator daily vibration exposures and compare them with the legal limits set down in the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (2005). If the Exposure Action Value (EAV) is exceeded then actions are required to reduce daily exposure. The Exposure Limit Value (ELV) is the maximum daily vibration exposure an operator can receive. An operative daily exposure is also determined using calculations of trigger time.
The vibration magnitude of a tool is normally supplied by the manufacturer. However, often may not consider the tool used against resistance (Grinder against piece of metal or Sander against wood). Also as a tool ages and parts wear the levels indicated by the manufacturer may not be accurate for ‘real world’ conditions.
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What do the Regulations require the employer to do?
- Assess the vibration risk to your employees;
- Take action to reduce vibration exposure that produces those risks;
- Decide if employees are likely to be exposed above the:
- Daily exposure action value (EAV) and if they are:
introduce a programme of controls to eliminate risk, or reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable;
- Daily exposure limit value (ELV) and if they are:
take immediate action to reduce their exposure below the limit value;
- Make sure the legal limits on vibration exposure are not exceeded;
- Provide information and training to employees on health risks and the actions you are taking to control those risks;
- Carry out health surveillance (regular health checks) where there is a risk to health;
- Keep a record of your risk assessment and control actions;
- Keep health records for employees under health surveillance;
- Review and update your risk assessment regularly.
What are the exposure action and limit values (EAV/ELV)?
The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce the risk. For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8).
There is also a level of vibration exposure that must not be exceeded. This is called the exposure limit value. The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.