Excessive exposure to vibration from hand held power tools can cause damage to nerves, impaired blood circulation and musculoskeletal damage. Too much exposure to hand-arm vibration can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. This can lead to numbness, tingling, pain, reduced circulation in the fingers and ultimately to reduced dexterity of the hands. The Health & Safety Executive has found this to be one of the most commonly reported conditions under RIDDOR (Reporting of Injuries, Diseases & Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995. Recent legislation governing the use of vibrating tools and the required health surveillance measures comes under the Control of Vibration Regulations 2005.

Who is at Risk?

Those who use hand held powered tools:

  • drills, pedestal drills
  • air powered de-burring tools
  • road breakers, whacker plates, pneumatic drills
  • grinders, sanders, disc cutters
  • hedge trimmers, powered mowers, strimmers, brush cutters, chain saws

The main trades and skilled workers groups who are at risk include:

  • Gardeners, arbourists
  • Mechanics. body shop repair workers
  • Joiners, woodworkers
  • Maintenance workers
  • Roadworkers

What's Involved?

Health surveillance must be in place for employees who are exposed above the action value (2.5m/s A (8)) and for employees who are sensitive to vibration to minimise the risk of the disease progression Health surveillance for HAVS takes place on a tiered basis:

Tier 1 Initial questionnaire - This obviously establishes a baseline and highlights areas that require speedy intervention. It provides an opportunity for face to face information, instruction and training if carried out in person. This stage can be carried out using postal assessments. Many companies delegate this function to occupational health providers to ensure both medical confidentiality and expert review.

Tier 2 Annual health surveillance questionnaire - Establishes any trends within a company and areas requiring further engineering and occupational health intervention i.e. tier 3 screening. Many companies delegate this function to occupational health providers to ensure both medical confidentiality and expert review. This can also be carried out on a face to face basis or via the postal screening service.

Tier 3 Assessment by a qualified person - follows tier 2 if symptoms are reported. Must be carried out face to face.

Tier 4 Occupational Health Physician assessment in order to confirm diagnosis of HAVS or confirm differential diagnosis e.g. elbow or neck problem that causes some of the symptoms that can mimic HAVS. The OH Physician will also advise on RIDDOR Reporting requirements.

Tier 5 This is optional and involves specific tests, carried out at an accredited laboratory on the employee in order to elicit symptoms and signs that could be attributed to HAVS.

For companies choosing the face to face approach, the opportunity can be taken to check employees' blood pressure and perform checks for diabetes. It also gives the opportunity for employees and company staff to raise any concerns that they may have.


All Safe OH & S can offer site based statutory health surveillance including:

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