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Hand-arm vibration (HAV) is common in body shops but do you do enough to manage and reduce the potential risk?

Whether its bench grinders, portable drills or orbital sanders, your body shop technicians will be using vibratory tools on a daily basis and for long periods of time, but is your machinery being reviewed regularly in relation to the correct health and safety regulations?

Here we look at the associated risks of vibratory tools, advise on what is required to comply with The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, and share our top tips on how to comply with the legislation, assess your tools and control the risks posed by HAV in your body shop.

Risks and implications

Using vibratory tools introduces a number of risks specific to HAV which can be very significant if not managed – not only for employees but for the business itself. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently reported that up to two million people are at risk of HAV syndrome, caused by prolonged exposure to vibration tools. It is one of the most common risk factors, alongside aggravating carpal tunnel syndrome, in individuals who are already suffering with the condition.

HAV syndrome can be controlled by reducing vibration exposure transmitted to the hand and/or the time spent holding vibrating equipment. Regularly monitoring your employees’ usage of tools and the tools themselves will enable your body shop to continue running efficiently and avoid any potential fines.

Rules and regulations

In many cases, businesses have been fined for failing to follow the fundamental regulatory requirements, but this can be avoided. There are five sections within the regulations which must be followed: assessing/measuring tools and collecting data; observational studies; health surveillance; staff instruction and training; and carrying out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment that encompasses all of the above. All of these components must be carried out to provide a holistic review of the HAV tools within the body shop. Managers must complete a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for all HAV tools – this needs to be thorough and cover every tool in the workshop. The results should be properly documented and not only logged as data but actioned to ensure all vibratory tools and machinery is safe to use.

Top tips for assessing your HAV tools

  • Prioritise risk assessments, not just tool assessments – a risk assessment is required as a legal document by The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. Review HAV tools at least once a year, by their very nature, basic vibratory tools can be damaged easily, and larger tools can deteriorate quickly.
  • Regularly monitoring tools will avoid HAV syndrome and the additional cost implications of replacing worn out tools.
  • Review tools at different times throughout the year – the weather can impact the efficiency of tools so alternate the seasons in which you test them.
  • Educate technicians on the regulations (alongside managers), technicians have a responsibility to ensure tools are fit for purpose and used correctly.
  • Introduce a purchasing policy – make your employees and customers aware that your business only buys high-quality tools and expect freelance technicians to use tools of the same standard.

Limit the number of tools on site to limit the risk factor – decide on a sensible number of tools for each technician to have at their disposal. Test those tools and discard the ones that don’t meet the requirements.