Safety Services



Vibration can cause long-term painful damage to your hands and fingers and shocks and jolts from driving certain vehicles can cause severe back pain. Exposure to vibration must be controlled.

Vibration at work

You can be exposed to vibration in your work in two ways:

Hand-arm vibration

This comes from the use of hand-held power tools or by holding materials being worked by hand-fed machines and is the cause of significant ill health.

Whole-body vibration

This is transmitted through the seat or feet of employees who drive mobile machines, or other work vehicles, over rough and uneven surfaces as a main part of their job.

It is unlikely staff at UCL will be exposed to whole-body vibration. but there is a risk of exposure to hand-arm vibrations. The guidance below will concentrate on mitigating the risks associated with hand-arm vibration.

Hand-arm vibration risks

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

The symptoms of HAVS include any combination of:

  • Tingling and numbness in the fingers;
  • Not being able to feel or grip things properly;
  • Loss of strength in the hands;
  • Fingers going white (blanching) and becoming red and painful on recovery (particularly in the cold and wet, and probably only in the finger tips at first).

HAVS is preventable, but once the damage is done it may become permanent and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance.

Risk assessment

To assess the risk of hand-arm vibration, :you should:

  • Determine how long workers are using the vibrating equipment for. This is not the length of time that the worker has a powered hand-tool with them during a shift, but the amount of time spent holding the equipment whilst it is vibrating.
  • Understand the vibration emission of the equipment. This will be provided by the supplier of the equipment.

Action must be taken if the exposure to hand-arm vibration reaches the exposure action value (EAV) and activity must be stopped if exposure reaches the exposure limit value (ELV). These are:

  • EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 time-weighted average over 8 hours.
  • ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 time-weighted average over 8 hours

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have produced a vibration calculator to assist in calculating exposure to hand-arm vibration.

> Further information on hand-arm vibration exposure calculator.

Control measures

To manage the risk of hand-arm vibration exposure, the following measures should be considered;

  • Avoid or reduce the need to use vibrating equipment.
  • Consider vibration emissions when purchasing or hiring equipment, always go for the lowest-vibration tool that will be suitable for the task.
  • Maintain equipment in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep cutting tools sharp.
  • Plan work schedules to minimise vibration exposures.
  • Organise work and design workstations to avoid uncomfortable postures and the need for high manual effort to grip, push or pull equipment
  • Ensure employees keep good blood circulation by keeping hands warm and dry.

Health surveillance

For employees who are likely to be regularly exposed above or near to the exposure action value or are at higher risk due to medical conditions such as Raynaud's disease or are particularly sensitive to vibration, UCL must provide health surveillance. 

> Health surveillance at UCL is managed by Workplace Health.

Last updated: Thursday, October 14, 2021