Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

Assessing the Risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome

Everyday human beings interact with some sort of machinery, making contact with vibration inevitable. Unfortunately, continuous exposure to mechanical vibration can lead to serious injury. The effect on the human body is dependent upon the magnitude of vibration, the frequency content, and the duration of exposure. 

Understanding Hand-Arm Vibration

Hand-Arm Vibration is defined as the vibration workers experience when using tools such as chain saws, jackhammers, grinders, drills, etc. Excessive Hand-Arm Vibration can lead to what is commonly referred to as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS).

What is Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS)?

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a general term used to broadly describe the physical damage to the hands, fingers, and related structures resulting from chronic exposure to excessive vibration (also known as Vibration White Finger or VWF).

Physical Damage Includes:

  • Vascular (damage to the blood vessels, i.e. Vibration White Finger Disease)
  • Neuropathic (damage to the nerves/nervous system) 
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Determining HAVS Risk

Some questions that can be used to help determine areas for HAVS concern:

A)    Are power tools being used and is there a medical diagnosis of injury?
B)    Are workers reporting tingling or a "pins and needles" feeling in their fingers?
C)    Has a case of HAVS been documented?

HAVS Exposure Limits

Vibration exposure limits have been established through European Directive 2002-/44/-EC and the American Conference of Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH). Limits for maximum exposure which are called the Threshold Limit Value (TLV) and action levels are shown below.

ACGIH Threshold Limit Values (TLVs)
Total Daily Exposure Duration Maximum value of the frequency weighted acceleration
4 to less than 8 hours 4 m/s2
2 to less than 4 hours 6 m/s2
1 to less than 2 hours 8 m/s2
Less than 1 hour 12 m/s2
EU Directive 2002-/44/-EC Limit and Action Levels
Daily Exposure Duration Daily Limit Daily Action Level
8 hours 5 m/s22,5 m/s2

Measuring Hand-Arm Vibration Exposure

It is possible to measure and report the vibration levels produced by handheld equipment using products such as the Larson Davis Human Vibration Meter Model HVM200.  The  HVM200 provides all the functionality needed to measure human exposure to vibration 

Standards, Regulations & Directives

In Europe, Directive 202/44/EC has been implemented to define "exposure limits" and "exposure action values". This specifies an employer's obligations with regard to determining and assessing risks. Also, Machinery Directive 98/37/EC requires anyone providing power tools or machinery for use in Europe must provide vibration exposure data.

In the US, OHSA has not regulated specific requirements for vibration standards. However, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) has developed Threshold Limit Values (TLV's) for vibration exposure and advises that these values be applied in conjunction with other protective measures. As mentioned above, any manufacturer providing equipment to Europe must comply with the Machinery Directive.

Some of the ISO standards related to Hand-arm vibration are listed below:

    International Standards
    Standard Description
    ISO 8041:2005 Standard for instruments measuring human response to vibration
    ISO 5349-1:2001 General requirements for measuring human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration
    ISO 5349-2:2001 Practical guidelines for measuring human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration at the workplace
    ISO 10819:2013 Measurement and evaluation of gloves
    ISO 22867:2011 Vibration of portable, hand-held tools used in forestry and gardening
    ISO 28927-1:2009 angle and vertical grinders
    ISO 28927-2:2009 Wrenches, nut runners and screwdrivers
    ISO 28927-3:2009 Polishers and rotary, orbital and random orbital sanders
    ISO 28927-4:2010 Straight grinders
    ISO 28927-5:2009 Drills and impact drills
    ISO 28927-6:2009 Rammers
    ISO 28927-7:2009 Nibblers and shears
    ISO 28927-8:2009 Saws, polishing and filing machines with reciprocating action and small saws with oscillating or rotating action
    ISO 28927-9:2009 Scaling hammers and needle scalers
    ISO 28927-10:2011 Percussive drills, hammers and breakers
    ISO 28927-11:2011 Stone hammers
    ISO 28927-12:2012 Die grinders

    Further Information