Whole-body vibration is dangerous for workers, but OSHA has no standard on vibration limitation. Hear what safety managers can do to reduce worker risk.
An employee sitting, standing or reclining on a vibrating machine or vehicle is susceptible to WBV, whole-body vibration. It can affect vision, the bones, joints and the gut.
In this podcast, Dan Clark describes what is known, and much of what is not know about WBV. It’s valuable advice for the safety manager and company owner.
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Dan Clark: Imagine workers exposed to constant shaking. It happens every day, doesn’t it? Sometimes all day. But there’s no OSHA standard to control this hazard. We’ll dip into whole-body vibration in just a sec.
Hi, I’m Dan Clark with The Safety Brief. We take on health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites, a service of Creative Safety Supply.
Whole-body vibration, also known as WBV, happens when a worker is standing, sitting or reclining on a piece of vibrating equipment. It doesn’t instantly turn them into a milkshake but the slow grind of exposure can be harmful.
Many safety managers don’t know about whole-body vibration hazards because OSHA hasn’t developed a standard. Little data exists.
Employees using vehicles and equipment in mining, construction, agriculture, forestry, aviation and shipping can be exposed to WBV. Rough roads and terrain can make an already bad vibrating situation worse.
Don’t confuse WBV with hand-arm vibration syndrome, h-a-v-s, HAVS. HAVS results in noticeable health problems, such as vibration white finger. WBV doesn’t cause a clear health problem like vibration white finger. It may take years of vibration exposure to cause a physical problem. Establishing a definitive relationship between an injury and WBV can be challenging. Plus some people may be more prone to vibration related illnesses than others.
Here’s what we do know about whole-body vibration:
1. It can cause musculoskeletal problems — low back pain, head and neck pain, and spinal degeneration.
2. It has also been linked with irritation of lungs, bladder and abdomen, digestive problems and vision problems.
3. When combined with high noise levels, vibration can exacerbate hearing loss too.
Since information and standards are lacking, what can safety managers do?
Pick good seats. NIOSH, The National Institute For Occupational Safety And Health, found many seats designed to absorb impact really do reduce the hazard. NIOSH also says measurement tools can be used on existing seats to assess vibration levels. Vibration occurs along three axes — vertical, side to side and forward to back — so measurement must take all three into consideration.
— Use newer equipment.
— Maintain equipment and roadways.
— Use vibration dampeners, including tires and suspensions.
— Use administrative controls. Rotate workers in and out to limit exposure time.
— If employees complain, investigate vibration levels. They are probably high.
— Provide training. Example: Encourage employees to slow down on rough roads or terrain to reduce vibration.
That’s all for this episode, Whole-Body Vibration Hazards. Join me again for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10 percent off your entire order at creativesafetysupply.com with coupon code BIG10.
See detailed info on WBV from ASSE here.
Vibrating man graphics by Thom Cheney © ℗ 2015 Creative Safety Supply, LLC; trucks at Yucca Mountain image by U.S. Dept Of Energy; Steam roller by U.S. Air Force / Dennis Sloan