The number of hand arm vibration breaches on U.K. construction sites has risen by 33 percent in the last year, according to new figures from the Building Safety Group (BSG).
The increase is based on over 42,000 independent site inspections conducted over a two year period, comparing 2017 to 2018. According to the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, the U.K. saw over 7000 new claims for hand-arm vibration (HAV) between 2008 and 2017.
Hand-arm vibration typically comes from the use of hand-held power tools, or hand-guided machinery, with regular long-term exposure disrupting circulation and causing damage to nerves, tendons, muscles, bones and joints. Excessive HAV can also cause conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, and ‘vibration white finger’ – a sudden constriction of blood vessels.
BSG’s announcement comes after a series of recent HSE blitzes which have focused on ‘Vibration’ in construction as a serious health risk. A recent case saw Balfour Beatty fined £500,000 for HAVS breaches over ‘several years’.
“Hand arm vibration can be a significant health risk wherever powered hand tools are used for prolonged lengths of time. And unfortunately, once the damage is done it is permanent,” said BSG managing director Paul Kimpton.
“However the good news is that HAVs is easily preventable. What construction companies need to do is find out what their workers’ exposure is likely to be as part of a vibration risk assessment. The HSE advises that the employer carries out a period of monitoring to understand how long workers use particular tools in a typical day or week.”
“Once you know enough about the work to say what the exposure is likely to be and whether it is likely to exceed either the ‘Exposure Action’ or ‘Exposure Limit Value’, focus can shift to investigating, as well as taking practical steps to reduce the exposure and the risks.”
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