Vibration would not be readily seen, by workers, as a danger to health in the workplace. It is, and the injury can be serious.
Many industrial machines transmit vibration to the body. Some, like vehicles, can transmit the vibration to the full body. Others affect a limb or part of a limb.
Sustained exposure to vibration can produce permanent damage. Nerves and blood vessels may degrade and the limb will lose sensation. “Whitefinger” is a term for this kind of damage.
If alleviated promptly the sensation may return to the limb. Without attention, the onset of gangrene is a possible end result, requiring amputation of the affected limb or part.
A typical location for vibration injury is the carpal tunnel in the hand. The median nerve and nine flexor tendons pass through the carpal bones. With damage, the nerve can be pinched and produce numbness, tingling, burning, clumsiness and pain in the hand.
If machinery has not been properly designed the expense of “retrofitting” to eliminate the vibration may dissuade the employer from its obligations to keep the worker safe.
is a common and infrequently recognised cause of injury. It is an avoidable result of using many industrial tools such as chain saws, grinding, sanding, hammering or polishing tools.
Retrofitting is not easy when the whole machine is the cause of the vibration.
In a study in 1960 of 371 tractor drivers, long periods of tractor driving over rough terrain was shown to cause stomach complaints and spinal disorders. There was a direct relationship between the severity of the complaints and the length of service of the drivers. Kidney damage was also indicated by the presence of blood in urine.
For specific statutory duties on vibration see Part 5 Chapter 2 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007