When Will You Begin Monitoring Your Workers for Vibration Exposures?
Vibration, specifically hand arm vibrations (HAVs), has remained somewhat of a mystery for most safety professionals in the United Sates. Why is it that a hazard acknowledged around the world seems not to affect American workers?
A comprehensive study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) concluded that vibrating hand tools could cause vibration syndrome, a condition also known as vibration white finger. Vibration syndrome has adverse circulatory and neural effects in the fingers. Signs and symptoms can include numbness, pain, and turning pale and ashen. Alarming is the evidence of advanced stages of vibration syndrome after exposures as short as one year.
While NIOSH recommends that jobs be redesigned to minimize the use of vibrating hand tools and that powered hand tools be redesigned to minimize vibration, little guidance is posted on how to measure exposure and how to determine what amounts of exposure are safe. OSHA has not published standards or even recommendations that address occupational vibration while our northern neighbors in Canada, European neighbors across the sea, and southern neighbors across South America are following local regulation or ISO standards.
A move is beginning to monitor workers and begin protecting those with hazardous vibration exposure levels. Because, the truth is, vibration is an occupational hazard effecting American workers and progressive safety and industrial hygiene professionals are getting it. Multinational organizations, the U.S. Navy, and other companies are taking action. So where do you stand on vibration and what are you plans? We would love to hear from you and learn what you are doing about vibration monitoring at your facility or company.
Of interest: Vibration Dosimeter — SV 103