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Protecting workers from HAVS – understanding the risks

May 28, 2018

HAVS Expert Corner Vibration

Maintenance managers and health and safety executives that learn to protect their workers from Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) will increase the company productivity, profits and reputation.

Does your organization perform intensive jobs such as shut downs in oil and petrochemical refineries, assembling large pipe elements into a liquid or gas pipeline, or tightening metallic structures in buildings and infrastructure?

Do operators use vibrating hand tools such as grinders or impact wrenches for long periods in a day, day-in, day-out, all year as shown in the table below? Do operators sometimes complain about numbness or white fingers after using hand tools, or pains in their hand after temperature change?

If so, then workers are at risk of HAVS and it’s time to take action before it’s too late.

How to identify if the application is a risk

There are two things to consider to identify if workers are at risk: the tool’s level of vibration and the time of exposure.

Vibration Magnitude, m/s² Daily exposure action value: 
If reached, technical and organizational actions must be taken to reduce vibration exposure
Daily exposure limit value: 
Should never be exceeded
2.5 8 hours >24 hours 
5 2 hours 8 hours
10 30 minutes 2 hours
15 13 minutes 53 minutes
20 8 minutes 30 minutes

It’s worth noting that manufacturer values of vibration magnitude are indicative only and they should always be measured in the application’s real conditions. This may not always be possible, and if this is the case then a safety coefficient multiplier should be applied to the manufacturer’s value and Standard ISO5349 referred to for further information on measuring the vibration level.

A worked example

Let’s take a look at Joe’s situation:

  • Tool used: CP6135 impact wrench
  • Application: loosen large bolts
  • Tool’s vibration magnitude: 13.6 m/s² (standard testing ISO28927)
  • Vibration exposure: approximately 13 minutes (200 bolts in one work shift, each bolt takes 4 seconds to loosen meaning 200 cycles x 4 seconds)

According to the Directive, for a vibration of 15 m/s², the action value is at 13 minutes. Since Joe’s tool has a slightly lower vibration than that, there is no risk. There is a larger margin to the limit value, which he would reach after about one hour.

However, if the situation was to change and he was required to loosen many more bolts per shift, he would be at risk of exceeding the action value and the employer would need to take steps to reduce this. Some examples might be:

“Do not forget to prioritize best practice to all employees if your operations have vibration exposure. Use of safety equipment and well maintained tools, and keeping hands warm are crucial to prevent injuries.”

Harald Odenman , Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

Read more about HAVS:

Disclaimer: This article is neither a magnum opus control exposure to hand-arm vibration nor legal advice for your company to use in complying with your local regulations. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand how to address some important points. This information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on this paper as legal advice, nor as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.


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