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Vibrations at work

Vibrations

Vibrations in the context of ergonomics, means that the body is being exposed to shaking or oscillations. We differ between whole-body vibrations and hand-arm vibrations. There’s an exposure-response relationship between exposure time and the health effects from it.

Illustration of two men holding vibrating tools
Photo:
Colourbox

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Whole-body vibrations

During transportation the body is exposed to whole-body vibrations. A common acutely felt effect of this is motion sickness. In a longer timeframe, whole-body vibrations may increase the risk of degenerative conditions in the spine as well as back pain. In small vehicles driving with high speed, the higher impact the spine absorbs, especially combined with bumps in the road while driving. 

Preventive measures against whole-body vibrations

  • Increase seat damping
  • Suitable ergonomc seat design
  • Leveling of the ground
  • Right tires
  • Speed reduction
  • Proper maintanance of machines/ equipment
  • Reduce exposure time (though not in the sense that one is to hurry to finish the task)
  • Task rotation and/ or rotate which equipment that is being used
  • Proper use of equipment or vehicle
  • Proper training

Hand-arm vibration

Hand-arm vibration happens when vibrations are being transferred to the worker when holding vibrating tools or machines. Over time, exposure can lead to hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). HAVS affects circulation, nerves, musculature and joints in fingers and hand.

A tell-tale sign of HAVS is numb and white fingers (Raunaud’s phenomena). When HAVS is delevoped, the symptoms will be more prominent in cold temperatures. HAVS is not reversible nor treatable, prevention is therefore key.

Some vibrating tools can increase the risk of negative health effects after as little as 30 minutes. For workers that's exposed to hand-arm vibration, it's important to have knowledge about exposure limits and preventive measures.

Preventive measures against hand-arm vibration

  • Get familiar with recommended maximum values for the specific tool/ machine
  • Don't surpass the maximum recomended time limit for usage
  • Maintanance of tools/ machines
  • Replace old/ outdated machines
  • Task rotation or rotation of equipment
  • Remote controlling of machines/ tools
  • Reduce gripping force (can be done i.e. by suspesion of heavy equipment)
  • Gloves/ warmth
  • Vibrasjonsdempende hansker
    Note. Vibration gloves can (if the wrong fit) also increase vibrations by amplifying them
  • Nicotine reduction (both nicotine and vibration restricts blood flow to the extremities)

Pleaase note that risk reducing measures doesn't increase maximum recommended exposure time.