Safe Work addressing workplace vibration hazard

Published 15 Oct 2015

Vibration is a workplace hazard that has serious consequences, but often doesn’t get the attention that it deserves. However, this should change as a result of Safe Work Australia releasing its new guidance material on the dangers of workplace vibration.

Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter explained that it is important businesses manage vibration risks properly and are in a position to relay correct information to their teams. As such, the material includes assistance on serious topics such as measuring and assessing vibration in the workplace.

Hand-arm vibration (HAV) versus whole-body vibration (WBV)

There are two main types of vibration that impact an employee’s health. While the factors involved and the consequences are slightly different, the end result can be the same – employees having to take time off work and making a TPD claim.

In fact, according to Safe Work Australia, around 5,260 workers’ compensation claims in relation to vibration have been made in the last 14 years. This equates to more than one per day.

It is also important to note that this was at a cost of $134 million in workers’ compensation payments. This means that the economy is hit by the consequences of vibration injuries and illnesses as well as workers themselves.

  • HAV

In the mining, construction and manufacturing industries, workers are constantly operating vibrating and percussive tools such as angle grinders, jackhammers and chainsaws. The consistent vibration can result in illnesses such as white finger, occupational overuse syndrome and sensory nerve damage, according to Safe Work Australia.

  • WBV

Conversely, Healthy Working Lives explains that whole-body vibration is a consequence of sitting or standing on a vibrating surface on a consistent basis. For example, workers are subject to vibration if operating a tractor, truck or forklift.

The health impacts of this type of vibration are much more serious than HAV, especially if the worker is exposed for consequential amount of time. Safe Work Australia states that workers can experience musculoskeletal disorders such as bone damage, as well as motion sickness, respiratory problems, vision impairment and reproductive organ damage.

In describing vibration effects as “permanently disabling”, the authority also notes the combination with noise in the workplace.

“There is evidence that workers who are exposed to vibration and noise at the same time are more likely to suffer hearing loss than workers exposed to the same level of noise alone,” Safe Work Australia stated.

If you find yourself with an injury relating to vibration and need to make a superannuation claim, contact our expert lawyers today.

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