When Covid crashed into our lives in 2020, we quickly saw a decrease in the number of Hand arm & whole body vibration monitoring enquires. It made sense though, since much of the UK population was working from home.
Fast forward to when businesses were allowed to ‘open up’ again we expected to see an increase in enquiries quite quickly. Yet we were shocked when instead we saw them trickle through slowly and steadily. Yet as manufacturing and other outdoor operations were considered ‘essential’ services, what was happening to the estimated 2 million people in the UK who experience hand/arm and whole body vibration symptoms?
When we researched this we found that many businesses had retained older and more experienced staff, whilst placing many others on to the government furlough scheme. Experienced operators have been working with power tools that cause vibration for much longer than the HSE Control of Vibration at work regulations, 2005 has been in existence. Were these operators using their experience and overriding any monitoring controls in place in favour of getting the job done on time? Whilst Many other employees were placed on furlough in order to protect the financial implications of Covid-19.
Moreover, organisations faced one of the toughest health and safety challenges of our time. Coronavirus required a speedy implementation of Covid – safe regulations, and that became the priority for the masses.
So what now?
We have seen a dramatic increase in 2021 of hand/arm vibration monitoring, so we wanted to share some of the many symptoms to look out for.
- Numbness and tingling in the fingers – this could cause an employee to ‘shake’ their hand in between periods of work, and would result in an inability to perform fine work like assembling small components
- Loss of strength in the hands – Look out for fingers that appear ‘white’, particularly at the ends of the fingers.
- Pain in the hands – If colleagues are complaining about painful hands following any exposure to vibration, you should raise it with the health and safety officer for your organisation immediately.
How to prevent symptoms
- Control the risk
- Provide regular health monitoring for employees with regular vibration exposure
- Implement an effective vibration monitoring policy
- Provide information on how long equipment can be used safely
- Reach out to qualified health and safety consultants
You can also refer back to the HSE guide to hand – arm vibration at work here.