Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 Explained

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (CVWR) were introduced on 6 July 2005 under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. 

By introducing action and limit values for hand-arm and whole-body vibration they aim to protect workers from risks to health from vibration.

Compliance to the regulations should help to eliminate new incidences of disability from vibration by 2015 and prevent employees developing advanced stages of these diseases.

They do not apply to members of the public exposed to vibration from non-work activities.

Who is at risk of exposure to vibration in the workplace?

Employees using hand held power tools or power equipment, or sitting or standing on industrial machines or vehicles may be at risk of developing Hand Arm Vibration disorders (HAV) or Whole Body Vibration disorders (WBV).

HAV causes painful and disabling disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints. The risk increases depending on the exposure to vibration and may vary widely between individuals. When the blood supply to the fingers is affected the condition may be known as Vibration White Finger.

WBV is transmitted via the seat of vehicles such as tractors, fork-lift trucks or earth moving equipment. Employees exposed to this may develop back pain.

What duty do employers have?

Employers should identify which of their employees may be at risk of exposure to vibration, and make an assessment to identify whether the 'exposure action value' or the 'exposure limit value' is likely to be exceeded. 

The 'exposure action value' is the daily level, after which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The maximum amount that an employee can be exposed to in a day is the 'exposure limit value'. Measurement is in metres per second (m/s²) and represents an average value over an 8 hour day.

Values and limits differ for HAV (2.5 - 5 m/s² A (8)) and WBV (0.5 - 1.15 m/s² A (8)) 

Assessing the risk involves consultation with employees to determine which processes might involve regular exposure to vibration and noting whether any employees display symptoms. The assessor should be someone with good knowledge of the work processes within the business.

The assessment should include any information provided by the equipment manufacturers regarding vibration risk. 

Consideration should be given to specific working conditions, such as low temperatures, and whether an employee has exposure to vibration at the workplace outside normal working hours.

Where the assessment concludes there is a health risk, the employer should place employees under health surveillance to monitor any effects. Employees showing signs of adverse health due to exposure to vibration should be advised by their employer and a further risk assessment conducted. 

Consideration should be given to assigning employees alternative work where there would be no risk from further exposure to vibration.

Can a claim be made for compensation by anyone with HAV or WBV disorders?

Since employers have a specific duty to protect employees from being exposed to vibration and to take measures to prevent further exposure if symptoms appear, an employee developing either disorder through his working conditions may be entitled to bring a claim for compensation.

Symptoms can become disabling if ignored. Anyone with a feeling of numbness or a cold or tingling sensation in the fingertips should discuss their concerns with their GP immediately.