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8.1 Introduction to managing vibration risks

This section offers guidance for persons conducting a business or undertaking (PCBUs) on managing the risks to road and roadside workers of being exposed to vibration while working.

There are two main types of vibration that can cause harm to workers:

Whole body vibration

Whole-body vibration occurs when vibration is passed through the body from a surface where a worker sits or stands. This occurs most often in workers driving machinery or other vehicles over rough or uneven surface.

Whole body vibration can affect the body in several ways and can contribute to several health disorders.

Hand-arm vibration

Hand-arm vibration occurs when vibration is passed through the hands and arms, usually from hand or power tools.

Workers can develop Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), and other musculoskeletal conditions if they regularly and frequently use hand-held power tools and machines, especially for long periods of time.

[image] illustration of a steam roller and a compactor
Figure 8: Examples of machinery that can cause vibration-related harm

Road and roadside workers can be exposed to harmful levels of vibration through various sources. For example, from:

  • spending long periods of time sitting or standing on mobile plant, vehicles, or machinery that vibrates
  • using tools or machinery that vibrate for long periods of time, such as plate compactors, jackhammers, cutting or grinding tools, and powered gardening tools.

Working in cold conditions can increase the harmful effects of vibration on the body.

8.2 Control measures for vibration risks

Eliminate exposure to vibration

Consider using work methods that do not require using powered hand tools or sitting or standing on vibrating machines (for example, use tools or machines operated by remote or use mobile plant-mounted tools rather than hand tools).

Minimise exposure to vibration

If eliminating the source of the vibration is not reasonably practicable, look at how you can minimise the amount of vibration your workers are exposed to.

Examples of how to minimise vibration include:

  • using power tools and plant that produce less noise and vibration
  • using methods of work that produce less vibration (for example, use hydraulic rather than compressed air tools)
  • isolating vibrating machinery, mobile plant, or vehicles from the operator by providing fully independent seating
  • choosing power tools and plant that direct cold air (for example, from the tool’s exhaust) away from hands
  • training workers on choosing the right tool or plant for the job (one which has the appropriate size, power, and capacity for the task and work conditions)
  • making sure workers are trained in how to safely use the plant or tools in a way that minimises the levels of vibration
  • maintaining power tools and machines regularly. Repair faults as soon as possible. Make sure suspension systems are well maintained
  • maintaining vehicle seats and seat suspension
  • limiting the time workers are exposed to vibration, especially while working in cold conditions (for example, job rotation, lots of breaks)
  • discussing with workers how exposure to vibration can harm them and training them in how to identify the symptoms of HAVS and CTS. Tell workers how they can report their symptoms
  • reducing exposure to working in the cold, providing warm/hot drinks, and having workers take breaks in a warm room.

Personal protective equipment (PPE)

PPE should only be used to manage the risks from vibration after all other reasonably practicable steps have been taken.

Thermal PPE can be used to keep workers warm and dry (for example, thermal, non-slip gloves).

Note: Anti-vibration gloves reduce worker exposure to high frequency vibration but not low frequency vibration. However, in general, gloves can be helpful because they keep your workers’ hands warm. When choosing gloves, pick non-slip gloves that are not too thick. Thick gloves mean workers have to grip tighter, increasing the chance of HAVS and CTS and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Use mats or insoles to reduce foot-transmitted vibration.

8.3 Monitoring vibration exposure

Once you have taken all reasonably practicable measures to eliminate or minimise the risks from vibration, check if ongoing vibration exposure monitoring is needed.

Ongoing monitoring can help inform you whether control measures are effective at minimising the risk. For more information, see Section 16.0: Exposure monitoring

Consider including monitoring for signs and symptoms of vibration-related illness or injury into your health monitoring programme. For more information, see Section 17.0: Health monitoring

8.4 More information on vibration