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Updated guidance on hand-arm vibration

The HSE has recently revised its guidance document which helps businesses apply the Control of Vibration and Work Regulations 2005. What’s changed in the second edition?

What is it?
L140 sets out the employer’s duties to control the risk from vibrating hand tools such as road breakers, strimmer’s, power sanders and other sources of hand-arm vibration (see The next step).

Note. By paying attention to this guidance you should not only comply with the law but also avoid your workers developing conditions such as vibration white finger.

What’s Changed?
More than a decade has passed since the first edition of L140, and in that time there have been some significant developments. Firstly, manufacturers of powered hand tools are now required to provide more detailed data on vibration exposure. This is as a result of the revised Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC which came into force in 2009. Secondly, there have been technological developments which have made it easier to purchase lower vibration tools. Both of these significant factors have led to a major overhaul of the guidance. The HSE has also incorporated updated references to other legislation, given more emphasis to the section on how to control exposure to vibration and included new appendices on vibration measurement and anti-vibration gloves.

Tip. There is no change to the HSE’s policy on hand-arm vibration. If you have this under control you shouldn’t need to make major changes as a result of the new guidance. However, you should familiarise yourself with the contents.

Risk assessment

The focus of the risk assessment advice in the document has changed. You’re advised to find sensible and proportionate measures to control risk and “not create huge amounts of paperwork”. There’s a helpful list of various alternative sources of vibration data including information from manufacturers, the HSE and others. Measuring the vibration exposure from tools is still presented as an option, but its now discouraged.

Tip. You can obtain the numbers from the tool handbook or by contacting the manufacturer.

Part two, which covers the evaluation and control of risk, has been rewritten. It begins with suggestions on how to reduce exposure, e.g. by mechanisation, changing to lower vibration tools, and ensuring equipment is properly maintained. It goes on to look at measures such as job rotation to reduce the time of exposure, pointing out that these are less desirable methods of risk control as they rely on users following rules on work patterns.

Health surveillance

There’s a significant change in the section on health surveillance. Previously, employers were advised to issue an initial screening questionnaire to new starters, to be collected by a trained in-house manager. Under the new guidance, it’s advised that this document should be returned to an occupational health professional due to its confidential medical details.

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