Hand Arm Vibration Risk Assessment

Operator breaking tarmac

Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) can be caused by hand held powered equipment such as angle grinders and sanders, hand guided machinery such as floor polishers or lawn mowers and hand fed machines - where the operator holds an object against an abrasive.

The main way of controlling the risk is to avoid exposure by using automated or remote controlled equipment. Where this is not possible, lower the vibration and/or reduce the exposure time (the trigger time/time on the tool).

Risk Assessing

  • Identify and collate information on what machines, equipment or processes may cause vibration. 
  • Identify who may be at risk. How long does the worker work with the equipment? Ask have they experienced any numbness or tingling during or after using the equipment? Note, smokers or workers with poor circulation may be more susceptible to HAVS.

Ask the Question

  • Can the process be avoided - why are you doing it and does it actually need to be done?
  • Can the process be automated or done another way without vibration exposure? For example using a robotic grass cutter instead of a hand held mower.
  • Can an alternative lower vibration tool be used or a tool that results in lower exposure time? For example, using a hydraulic cutting tool instead of a cut off saw, using a battery operated machine instead of a petrol driven machine, using a sharper, faster cutting tool?
  • Can engineering controls be used, for example, using a jig for a power tool instead of the operator holding the tool?
  • Can different accessories assist in lowering the vibration? For example, a different type of abrasive disc may help lower the risk.

Maintain and Train

In implementing control measures it is important to ensure:

  • Maintenance and care of equipment - maintain equipment in accordance with manufacturer's instructions as poorly maintained equipment can increase vibration. Ensure that cutting tools are kept sharp and replacement parts are readily available.
  • Workstations are designed to avoid uncomfortable postures. Avoid the need for high manual effort to grip, push or pull equipment.
  • Training - ensure that employees are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of HAVS and report them early on to prevent the condition worsening. Ensure that employees know how to use the equipment correctly and safely so as to reduce vibration and grip force.

If using job rotation to assist in reducing vibration exposure, ensure that there are sufficient staff for this to work properly as a control measure. Job rotation must be appropriately supervised to ensure that it works.

The current view is that anti-vibration gloves do not assist in controlling exposure. However, gloves can assist in keeping hands warm and maintain circulation. Gloves should not create any additional hazard, for example cause entanglement in machinery.

Health surveillance will be required where exposure reaches or exceeds exposure action values.