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Tackling Vibration on Construction Sites


Vibration is infrequently talked about in comparison to other health and safety risks associated with construction work. However, it is no less of a risk to employees’ health.

Workers whose hands are regularly exposed to high vibration from tools and machines often suffer from several short and long term injuries - including issues with the hands and arms, impaired blood circulation and damage to the nerves and muscles.

Hand-Arm Vibration


Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV) can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as road breakers, and hand-guided equipment.

HAV affects the nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints of the hands and arms. It causes tingling and numbness in the fingers, reduces grip strength and the sense of touch, and affects blood circulation.

Affected people may find:

  • they suffer tingling and numbness in the fingers, pain, distress or disturbed sleep
  • they cannot feel things properly or do fine work (eg assembling small components) or everyday tasks (eg fastening buttons)
  • they lose strength in the hands, for example, reduced grip strength or reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions, which might affect their ability to work safely
  • their fingers go white (blanching) and become red and painful on recovery


Whole-Body Vibration


Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet is known as whole-body vibration (WBV).

WBV is shaking or jolting of the human body through a supporting surface (usually a seat or the floor), for example when driving or riding on a vehicle along an unmade road, operating earth-moving machines or standing on a structure attached to a large, powerful, fixed machine which is impacting or vibrating.

Most exposure to WBV at work is unlikely on its own to cause back pain. It may pose a risk when there is unusually high vibration or jolting or the vibration is uncomfortable for a long time on most working days. In some cases, whole-body vibration can aggravate pre-existing back problems.

The exposure action value is the amount of daily exposure to whole-body vibration above which you are required to take action to reduce risk. It is set at a daily exposure of 0.5 m/s2 A(8).


Managing the risks


The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 says you must prevent or reduce risks from exposure to vibration at work.  There are also some additional practices that companies and people can put in place to better protect construction site workers.

The Health and Safety Executive suggest an Assess, Control and Review model to manage the risks associated with workplace vibrations.


Controlling the risk of vibration

While there are many differences between whole-body vibration and hand-arm vibration there are several actions employers can take to reduce risks associated with vibrations.

  • Buy or hire high-quality, low-vibration tools and vehicles to reduce employee exposure across the project.
  • Follow manufacturer instructions for use to ensure reduced vibration, bumping or jolting.
  • Promote best practice techniques that reduce grip force, seat position and suspension settings.
  • Create workplace practices that minimise the vibration taken on by the worker. For example, devices, such as jigs and suspension systems, can be used to take the weight and vibration of the tools away from the worker.
  • Carry out health monitoring.
  • Limit the time workers are exposed to vibration for long, continuous periods. Rotate workers where tools or vehicles require continual or frequent use.
  • Provide training so workers understand the nature of vibration, how to control or limit exposure, and the signs of fatigue or discomfort.
  • Provide protective clothing if needed to keep workers warm and dry. Core body temperature encourages good blood circulation. Use gloves to keep hands warm but be aware that they do not provide any protection from vibration.
  • Risk access vibration regularly and introduce a programme to eliminate or reduce daily exposure.

You’ll find a wide range of personal protective equipment that’ll protect workers from the elements and reduce the risk of HAV due to poor circulation.  Prevention is better than cure in chilly weather, the correct gloves, thermal clothing, and waterproof layers can reduce employees getting cold.


Regular rest breaks that provide hot drinks and warm rest areas are also vital to ensure that employees can warm themselves increasing circulation to the extremities after working in cool weather.

Upholding the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 is the responsibility of employees, contractors, and visitors alike. You can read more about this here.

Posted: 20/01/2022