Regular long-term exposure to whole-body vibration (usually referred to simply as WBV) often causes back pain. WBV risks are particularly prevalent in situations where commercial, industrial or construction vehicles are driven regularly for most of the day - which results in vibration being transmitted to the body through the seat or feet. Although it is a serious issue, the risks can be controlled by good management, and there is plenty of advice available.
Indeed, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has just published new guidance on WBV. The guide, 'Whole Body Vibration: The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, Guidance on the Regulations', advises employers about what can be done to reduce and control the risks of WBV in accordance with the Control of Vibration at Work Act 2005 (which came into force in July 2005).
This new guidance will be helpful to those who operate off-road machinery and construction vehicles, as well as those in industries where drivers can be exposed to shocks and jolts while travelling over rough ground - such as mining, quarrying and commercial premises where fork lift drivers travel over poorly maintained ground.
Written in 'plain English', the book gives detailed guidance on the regulations as they apply to whole-body vibration. Practical advice is provided for a number of issues: Part 1 covers employers' legal duties to control the risks to health and safety from whole-body vibration; Part 2 is an introduction to whole-body vibration for employers; Part 3 addresses risk assessment and control; Part 4 relates to machinery manufacturers' duties on whole-body vibration risks; Part 5 is concerned with health monitoring; and Part 6 discusses postural risks. In addition, the book has appendices, references, further reading and further information.
Mike Shepherd, head of the HSE’s Noise and Vibration Programme, says: "HSE has been working closely with industry over the past four years to carry out research, which will help identify what the levels of whole-body vibration are in agriculture, mining and construction. The research is to identify the most effective ways of reducing excessive vibration exposures.
"Employers looking for more in-depth explanations of the regulations and how to manage the risks effectively will find the new guidance book very helpful. However, for many, the guidance in the free leaflet on whole body vibration will provide all they need to understand and comply with the Regulations."
The new 57-page guidance book 'Whole-body vibration' is available from HSE Books , reference L141, ISBN 0717661261, price £10.95.
Various other free leaflets and pocket cards were published by the HSE on 27 June 2005, and another guidance book on hand-arm vibration (HAV), which is also covered by the new Regulations, was published on 27 September 2005.
Free leaflets about vibration can be downloaded as PDF files from the HSE website.
In addition the HSE has published several research reports on the subject of whole-body vibration. These include 'Whole-body vibration in agricultural vehicles - Research Report 321', 'Evaluation of whole-body vibration exposure in British Industry – Research Report 377' and 'Whole-body vibration on construction, mining and quarrying machines – Research Report 400', all of which can be obtained from HSE Books or downloaded free from the HSE website.
Lastly, remember that confidential advice can be sought from the HSE's InfoLine, telephone 0845 345 0055.