5 Myths About Hand-Arm Vibration Monitoring

Common HAVS misconceptions in the construction industry

hand-arm vibration monitoring

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a concern for both employers and employees - especially those working on projects that require prolonged use of hand-held power tools. But, is continual monitoring of vibration exposure the way forward? And is working to the exposure time limit the best way to tackle the problem? Let's bust some myths and find out...

Myth 1

By continuously monitoring employees' vibration exposure levels, I will protect them from HAVS

There is no legal requirement for continual monitoring and recording of vibration exposure, so monitoring alone won’t protect your employees from the risks of HAVS. It’s only when the risk is managed that an individual is shielded from the syndrome. The best way to manage this risk is with a risk assessment, to understand what an employee’s exposure is likely to be. Appropriate action should then be taken to reduce the exposure and risks.

myth 2

Continually monitoring HAVS data is useless

Although monitoring your employees' HAVS exposure alone won’t protect them, you can still put the data to good use. It may give you enough information to decide which individuals are at risk from vibration, allowing you to take action.

This could be changing work processes to avoid using hand tools, modifying the work to improve ergonomics or switching to tools with lower vibration. You can still return to monitoring in the future to check if control measures are working, or to check for any significant changes that may have happened since the last monitoring period.

myth 3

My workers stay below the exposure limit value (ELV) so they won’t get HAVS

This isn’t necessarily true. Just because your workers’ vibration exposure is below the ELV per day in compliance with the law, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve fulfilled the requirements to protect your workers' health.

For instance, encouraging your employees to reach this level (but not go beyond it) can be ineffective - especially if those individuals have been previously noted as at risk of developing HAVS. Therefore, if your workers’ exposure is regularly reaching the limit, it would be beneficial to carry out the work a different way.

myth 4

Buying tool timers or vibration metres will stop workers developing HAVS

It’s worth noting that some devices sold as ‘vibration metres’ can be unreliable and give inaccurate data. For instance, they don’t always measure the vibration exposure to workers or the vibration magnitude needed to estimate exposures – they only measure the amount of time a tool is being used, similar to a stopwatch.

myth 5

Buying a tool with lower triaxial vibration values will prevent my employees from developing HAVS

The most important factor to consider when selecting the right tool for the job isn't just the triaxial vibration value, but also the productivity of the tool. Take for example our TE 700-AVR breaker with a triaxial vibration value of 6.5m/s2. This sounds enticing, but it takes 6.15 hours to remove 0.5 cubic metres of concrete and will result in 529 HAVS exposure points. It isn't the right tool for the job.

Our TE 800-AVR breaker, however, may have a higher triaxial vibration value at 8m/s2, but it will get the job done in 47 minutes with only 384 HAVS points. So, selecting a tool purely based on its vibration values may expose your workers to unnecessary risk due to the tool’s performance.

Myth-busting these common misconceptions can be the key towards ensuring you have a reliable and robust process for reducing the risks of HAVS, as well as increasing your jobsite productivity. Want to find out more? Download our free productivity guide below!

Our approach to monitoring vibration

At Hilti, we understand how difficult it is to measure trigger time (the time it takes to do something). For example, employees might use various tools onsite, meaning on-tool measurement isn’t sufficient. Having spoken to our customers, we’ve established that it’s much easier to measure the quantity of holes drilled, rather than trigger time. So, rather than saying a drill can be used for an hour, we say that you can drill 150 holes at 10mm diameter/100mm deep - thus counting how many holes have been drilled or the distance cut. This is way more practical and looks at how much a person can use a tool before reaching the limit.

What are your thoughts on continuously monitoring employees' vibration exposure levels? Let us know on Twitter!

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