Myth-Busting Hand-Arm Vibration Monitoring:

Five Things the Construction Industry Wants You to Know…

hand-arm vibration monitoring

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome is a risk for both employers and employees alike. 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 do it?

At Hilti, we understand the growing concern for Health & Safety Managers around HAVS so we think it’s about time to bust some myths…

Myth 1

By continuously monitoring employee’s vibration exposure levels, I will protect them from HAVS

There is no legal requirement for continual monitoring and recording of vibration exposure, and so monitoring alone won’t protect your employees from the risks of HAVS. It’s only when HAVS risk is managed that an individual is shielded from the risk of HAVS. This is when a risk assessment is undertaken to understand the data of what an employee’s exposure is likely to be, then appropriate action to reduce the exposure and risks are taken in a timely manner.

myth 2

Continual monitoring data for HAVS is useless

Although monitoring your employees HAVS exposure alone won’t protect them, you can always put the data to use. In this case, the data gained through monitoring your employee’s exposure, may give you enough information to decide which individuals are at risk from vibration and with that, take positive action.

This action could be changing the work process to avoid the need to use hand tools, modifying the work to improve ergonomics or switching to tools with lower vibration. Also, let’s not forget that, there is nothing wrong with returning to monitoring in the future to check if control measures are working or to take account of any significant changes that may have happened since the last measurement or 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 limit value 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) everyday, can be ineffective, especially if those individuals have been previously noted as at a risk of developing HAVS. Therefore, if your workers’ exposure is regularly reaching the limit, then it would be beneficial to investigate carrying out the work in a different way.

myth 4

Buying tool timers or vibration meters will stop workers’ developing HAVS

It’s worth noting that some devices that are sold as ‘vibration meters’ can be unreliable and give inaccurate data. For instance, they don’t always measure the vibration exposure of 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 being exposed to HAVS risks

The most important factor to consider when selecting the right tool for the job is not 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 6.5m/s2. This sounds very enticing, however, with this tool it takes 6.15 hours to remove 0.5 cubic metres of concrete and will result in 529 HAVS exposure points. It is clearly not the right tool for the job. Take our TE 800-AVR breaker though and you have a very different picture. It may have a higher triaxial vibration value at 8m/s2, but it will get the job done in 47 mins with only 384 HAVS points.

The lesson to be learnt here is that selecting a tool purely based on its vibration values exposes your workers to unnecessary risk due to the tool’s performance or it potentially being unfit for the task at hand.

In conclusion, overcoming these misconceptions can be key towards ensuring you have a reliable and robust process for reducing the risks of HAVS as well as increasing your productivity onsite. That's why we have a free guide on how to increase your productivity onsite. 

Our Approach

Here at Hilti, we realise that measuring trigger time (the time it takes to do something) is really difficult, for example, handheld devices can be taken off or employees might use various tools so on-tool measurement isn’t sufficient either. That’s why after having spoken to customers, we’ve established that it’s much easier to measure the quantity of holes drilled, for example, rather than the trigger time. To put this into context, rather than saying you can use said drill for an hour, we say that you can drill 150 holes at 10mm diameter / 100mm deep, therefore counting how many holes have been drilled or the distance cut. We feel that this looks more practically at how much work a person can do with a tool before reaching the limit.