Ergonomic Risk Factor 7: VIBRATION

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We have made it to the 7th and final Ergonomic Biomechanical Risk Factor in this blog series: VIBRATION.

If you have ever used a whipper snipper or pressure cleaner for an extended period without gloves you will understand why vibration gets a mention in these top 7 risk factors. An average of 50% of workers who use vibrating hand tools will have adverse health effects or hand-arm vibration syndrome as a direct result of the vibration (NIOSH, 1989).

The body’s internal tissues have a natural vibration or oscillation rate. External vibration that is applied to the body at its normal rate will cause the body to vibrate at higher amplitude that the force applied (resonate). For example, if vibration is applied to the head and trunk the body will resonate the vibration to another area of the body and amplify the vibration by 200%.

If the external vibration is applied at a rate different to the body’s normal rate, the body with absorb the external vibration. This can impair circulation and nerve impulses.

The effects of small amounts exposure to vibration can be reversed; however over exposure will result in permanent damage. Conditions that result from over exposure to external vibration can be severely detrimental to a workers health and functional performance. These include:

  • Damage to blood vessels causing insufficient circulation resulting in Raynaud’s Syndrome or hand-arm vibration syndrome
  • Nerve damage resulting in sensitivity, pain and decreased sensation in the fingers
  • Decreased muscle strength
  • Early onset osteoarthritis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Visual impairment

To reduce the risk of developing permanent damage, the exposure to vibration must be limited. Some ideas for this include:

  • Anti-vibration gloves
  • Maintain machines
  • Use tools with well intact handles to absorb the vibration
  • Alternate work tasks frequently
  • Reduce number of hours per week that a worker is exposed to vibration

I hope you have found some use to this series of posts regarding Ergonomic Biomechanical Risk Factors. Keep checking in for our next blog series 🙂

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