Most safety professionals are familiar with vibration-induced white finger, the most common condition among the operators of hand-held vibrating tools. Although hand-arm vibration is the most common vibration hazard, whole body vibration (WBV) should also be considered. Studies have reported decreased performance in workers exposed to WBV. Daily exposure over a number of years, can affect the circulatory system, bowel, respiratory, muscular systems and caus back disorders. The effects of WBV can also be aggravated by body posture, postural fatigue and dietary habits
Whole-body vibration (WBV) is the transfer of relatively low-frequency environmental vibration to the human body through a broad contact area. These frequencies are in the range of 0.5 to 80 Hertz. Jobs that may be affected by WBV include driving delivery vehicles, earth moving equipment, and/or through use of tools that generate vibration at low dominant frequencies and high amplitudes, such as jackhammers.
There is no OSHA standard for WBV. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) threshold limit value (TLV) for WBV under the ergonomics section. The International Standards Organization ISO 2631-1-1997 also addresses whole body vibration.
Depending upon the type of WBV, the amount of vibration can be measured using an accelerometer or mounted transducers for seated vibration and compared to these standards. If these standards are not a number of actions can be implemented to control exposure:
- Limit the time spent by workers on a vibrating surface.
- Mechanically isolate the vibrating source or surface to reduce exposure.
- Ensure that equipment is well maintained to avoid excessive vibration.
- Install vibration damping seats.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Safety and Health, “The vibration control design is an intricate engineering problem and must be set up by qualified professionals. Many factors specific to the individual work station govern the choice of the vibration isolation material and the machine mounting methods.”
Although safety professionals may have limited knowledge about WBV, it is important that they recognize this hazard, especially in industries where it is most likely to occur. As with any hazard, the necessary controls should be implemented to protect their workers
OccuSafe Industrial Hygiene & Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health. OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries. more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at www.occusafeinc.com.