Everything employers need to know about WBV exposure

Everything employers need to know about WBV exposure

The impact of occupational whole-body vibration exposure on employees

Occupational whole-body vibration (WBV) exposure can have significant detrimental effects on employee health and productivity. Those who operate large vehicles and machinery are at risk of vibrations transmitting through their seat or feet. Excessive exposure to these vertical up and down movements can lead to short and long term health problems. In this blog, we help employers understand WBV and discuss some of the ways they can protect their employees.

When does whole-body vibration exposure present a risk?

To assess the risk of whole-body vibration exposure, there are two important metrics to consider: the exposure action value (EAV) and the exposure limit value (ELV). The EAV represents the level of vibration exposure at which action should be taken to reduce the risk, while the ELV indicates the maximum level of exposure that should not be exceeded.

If an employee’s daily whole-body vibration exposure falls between the EAV [0.5 m/s² A(8)] and ELV [1.15 m/s² A(8)] level, employers should take appropriate action to manage and reduce the risk. This may involve adjusting work practices, providing protective equipment, or implementing engineering controls to minimise vibration.

Effects of whole-body vibration exposure on employees

Employees exposed to whole-body vibration may experience various symptoms that can affect their well-being and performance. At lower intensities it’s common for people to experience discomfort, fatigue and impaired concentration. Employees may also aggravate existing musculoskeletal conditions at lower levels of exposure. At higher intensities employees may suffer from back pain, joint problems, headaches and a loss of balance. If preventative action is not taken, employees are at risk of injuries to the joints, ligaments, nerves and interverbal discs.

What is the likelihood a workplace is high risk?

The risk of occupational whole-body vibration exposure can vary depending on the work environment and job tasks. Some examples include:

  • Low risk: Office environments, where employees are primarily seated and not exposed to significant sources of whole-body vibration.
  • Medium risk: Operators of forklifts or industrial vehicles in warehouses or manufacturing settings, where whole-body vibration is common and can impact employees if not properly addressed.
  • High risk: Construction workers operating heavy machinery or vehicles, where whole-body vibration is frequent, but can be managed through proper equipment maintenance and usage.
  • Very high risk: Professional drivers or operators of large machinery in industries such as mining or agriculture, where prolonged and intense whole-body vibration exposure is common.

It is essential for employers to assess their specific workplaces and jobs to determine the level of risk and take appropriate measures to manage it effectively. 

How can employees reduce their risk of whole-body vibration exposure?

Employers play a crucial role in reducing the risk of whole-body vibration exposure for their employees. Here are some actionable tips:

  • Properly maintain and regularly inspect machinery and vehicles to ensure they are in good working condition and minimize vibration levels.
  • Provide training to employees on proper equipment usage, posture, and techniques to minimize whole-body vibration exposure.
  • Use equipment with vibration-damping features, such as air-suspension seats, to reduce the transmission of vibrations to the body.
  • Implement engineering controls, such as isolating vibrating machinery from the operator’s cab, to minimize the impact of whole-body vibration.
  • Rotate tasks or provide regular breaks to employees who are exposed to prolonged whole-body vibration, allowing their bodies to rest and recover.

By implementing these measures, employers can significantly reduce the risk of whole-body vibration exposure and promote the health and well-being of their employees.

Final thoughts

As an employer, it’s crucial to prioritise the well-being of your employees. By implementing the tips and strategies mentioned in this article, you can ensure their safety and maintain a productive workforce. If you need further assistance or support in managing occupational whole-body vibration exposure, please contact our workplace safety experts at info@mohs.co.uk. We are here to help you create a safer workplace for your employees.