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Vibration legislation expands to cover old equipment

07 July, 2010

On 6 July, regulations came into force limiting the exposure of employees in the UK to hand-arm vibration caused by equipment such as hand-held power tools. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, published in 2005, places daily limits on the amount of exposure to vibration experienced by workers. Initially it applied only to new equipment, but it has now been extended to cover equipment bought before 6 July 2007.

“Since 2005, companies have been able to allow their employees to use older equipment which may cause vibration above the level prescribed by the regulations,” explains Jeremy Salisbury of the MRO suppler, Brammer, “but older equipment must now be replaced if it does not comply”.

Excessive exposure to vibration can increase the risk of “hand-arm vibration syndrome” whose symptoms include vibration white finger – a whitening of the fingers which can lead to circulatory, joint, muscle and nerve problems. This can, in turn, result in absenteeism or even the need for early retirement, with potentially serious legal ramifications for employers.

Vibration is usually calculated by a sensor on the tool which calculates acceleration along the three principal axes. Limits are determined by averaging exposure over an eight-hour period.

Brammer recommends that companies undertake full risk assessments and, where necessary, change their working practices and equipment to ensure compliance with the regulations.

Advice on the regulations is available from the HSE Web site

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