We rely on machinery and motorized equipment to perform countless tasks on the job and in the home. Virtually all machinery that runs on consistent cycles produces some form of vibration. In most cases, the effects aren’t powerful or frequent enough to have any lasting impact on the way our bodies feel and function, but in the case of regular or constant exposure to vibration, a number of serious and potentially debilitating health issues can occur.
For individuals working in industrial, construction, manufacturing, and processing facilities, there is often an increased risk of injury and long-term health issues caused by vibration. Anywhere heavy machinery or mechanical hand tools are used can pose potential hazards, which may not be apparent until time has passed. This is why proper assessments and control methods are so important.
What Are The Risks?
According to Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S), health hazards associated with repeated exposure to high levels of vibration include carpal tunnel syndrome, hand and finger injury, numbness and loss of feeling, loss of grip and dexterity, and even a number of back problems, which can be the result of whole-body vibration (WBV). Whole-body vibration can occur when occupations that require a worker to sit or stand in or near heavy machinery, such as farming and construction equipment.
Fortunately, an occupation that requires use and exposure to vibrating equipment doesn’t mean that health issues and hazards are just part of the job; there are things that can be done to control vibration and mitigate the potentially harmful effects. Employers and supervisors should take careful assessment of a workspace and equipment to gauge the potential risk to workers. Devices such as vibration sensors and accelerometers can be used to monitor areas and equipment to determine whether vibration exposure levels are excessive and pose health risks.
What Can Be Done?
If vibration needs to be reduced and controlled, there are various mountings and controls that can be used on and around equipment to dampen and isolate tremor. www.isolationtech.com provides a few good examples of these devices. Mounts and isolators are fairly easy to implement and usually for very little cost compared to the risks that can be avoided through their use.
Individuals can also take steps to reduce the likelihood of developing health issues due to vibration exposure. Limiting use of equipment by taking short, regular breaks can help. With the use of vibrating or motorized hand tools, keeping hands and extremities warm and dry will help maintain healthy circulation, which prevents injuries and formation of health issues over time.
Even if you haven’t experienced major health problems yet, or you think vibration isn’t at a level where it can cause harm, it’s better to yield on the side of caution and take careful assessment of areas with mechanical equipment and machinery. Simple changes can prevent major problems.