Hand-arm vibration prevention

Article published in the Regulator | Issue 1: 2016

During a recent planned inspection at an offshore facility, NOPSEMA inspectors identified the potential for harmful exposure of the workforce to hand-arm vibration. The use of portable vibrating mechanical equipment without appropriate controls can result in serious health effects that can lead to permanent, progressive and irreversible vibration-induced white finger, carpal tunnel syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, and/or neurological disorders. In this instance the inspectors found that:

a) There was no evidence to demonstrate that a health risk assessment for vibration hazards had been performed for personnel who use portable equipment (e.g. deck scalers, buffers, grinders and needle guns).

b)There was no evidence to demonstrate that any information or training was provided to the workers on the risks of mechanical vibration and the associated controls.

c) All reasonably practicable steps had not been taken to ensure the use of portable vibrating mechanical equipment, for deck surface preparation, is carried out in a manner that is safe and without risk to the health of employees at the facility.

Consequently, the operator of the facility was required to take action; subsequently implementing a series of controls to address the hand-arm vibration risks associated with the use of portable vibrating mechanical equipment:

• A vibration survey was performed, where equipment and high risk groups were identified

• Low vibration needle guns were purchased

• Work instructions were updated to include handle rotations

• Procedures were introduced to ensure that needle guns are not operated longer than 30minutes and that crew shall have one (1) hour break before returning to operating the needle guns

• Extension arms were purchased to be fitted and used when using the deck scaler, where possible

• Training on vibration control was provided to relevant members of the workforce • Vibration Control Plan was updated • Inclusion of voluntary Vibration Health Surveillance.

• Anti-vibration gloves, knee pads and kneeling mats were purchased for use

SafeWork Australia has published guidance material about the risks posed by hand-arm vibration and control measures at SafeWork Australia.