Hand-arm vibration | HSE published new guidance for 2019

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has now issued a second edition of L140, and employers whose work activities involve power tools will need to take note.

The revised guidance sets out employers duties (under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005) in relation to hand-arm vibration (HAV).

It is aimed at employers, as well as those who advise employers, such as health and safety professionals, vibration specialists and occupational health professionals.

What is hand-arm vibration?

Hand-arm vibration, commonly abbreviated to HAV, is a widespread hazard found in many industries and occupations. HAV exposure at work typically occurs from using:

  • Handheld machines such as grinders and hammer drills.
  • Hand-guided machinery such as lawnmowers and plate compactors.
  • Hand-fed machines such as pedestal grinders and forge hammers.

Regular and frequent exposure to vibrating machinery, usually over many months or years, can had adverse effects on the operator’s health. Nerve damage and restricted blood flow to a worker’s hands and arms can result in hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), a debilitating condition which manifests as:

  • White or ‘dead’ fingers that become painfully red;
  • Loss of fine motor skills;
  • Reduced strength and ability to grip; and
  • Muscle wasting.

HAVS can also include vibration-induced carpal tunnel syndrome, a condition that causes pain, numbness and tingling in the hand and arm.

Once the damage is done, it is irreversible, and the effects of HAVS can be life-changing, preventing suffers from undertaking simple everyday tasks. However, the risks from vibration can be controlled, and employers must take proactive steps to protect workers from ill health caused by vibration.

In order to comply with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, employers must:

  • Assess the risks arising from the use of vibrating machinery; and
  • Implement measures to reduce these risks to as low a level as possible.
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New claims for HAVS from 2008 to 2017

What’s it all about?

The new guidance outlines an employer’s legal duty to control risks to employees’ health and safety from exposure to HAV and prevent HAV-related diseases such as those outlined above.

It contains practical guidance on:

  • Managing and controlling the risks from HAV;
  • How to protect employees;
  • Risk assessments;
  • Estimating vibration exposure; and
  • Arranging health surveillance.

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Why the update?

The HSE explains that the reason for revisiting L140 is so that it reflects changes to related legislation, technical advances and experience.

The layout of the L140 guidance has also been modified to emphasise control of exposure. There are minor changes to the legislation but no changes to the HSE’s policy on the control of HAV.

A revised European Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC was implemented in the UK via the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008. Harmonised standards supplementing and building on the requirements of the Machinery Directive have improved the information about vibration being supplied with powered hand tools.

Speak to an expert

Need a helping hand with assessing HAV risk and implementing practical solutions? Looking for professional reassurance that your current controls are sufficient?

Our qualified Health & Safety Consultants can provide straightforward advice and hands-on support to help ensure you’re compliant. Simply call 0345 226 8393 or request a free consultation using the button below.