Friday, 30 October 2009

Hand Arm Vibration

What is hand-arm vibration?

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers’ hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools, such as chainsaws, strimmers, and hand-guided equipment, such as powered lawnmowers, or by holding materials being processed by machines. The use of this equipment comes under the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005.

When is it hazardous?

Frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can cause permanent health effects. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person’s job, occasional exposure is unlikely to cause ill health.

Health Effects

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel syndrome.


Identifying signs and symptoms at an early stage is important as this will allow you to take action to prevent the health effects from becoming serious.

The symptoms include any combination of:

• tingling and numbness in the fingers
• not being able to feel things properly
• loss of strength in the hands
• the fingers going white and red and painful on recovery, particularly when cold and wet

For some people, symptoms may appear after only a few months of exposure, but for others they may take a few years. They are likely to get worse with continued exposure to vibration and may become permanent.

What effects do these symptoms have?

The effects on people include:

• pain, distress and sleep disturbance.
• inability to do fine work (e.g. assembling small components) or everyday tasks (e.g. fastening buttons).
• reduced ability to work in cold or damp conditions.
• reduced grip strength which might affect the ability to do work safely.

They can severely limit the jobs an affected person is able to do, as well as many family and social activities.

Assess the risks

You should assess whether there is likely to be a significant risk from hand-arm vibration and which operations involve regular exposure to vibration. See if there are any warnings of vibration risks in equipment handbooks; ask employees if they have any of the HAVS symptoms described above and whether the equipment being used produces high levels of vibration or uncomfortable strains on hands and arms.

The person who does the risk assessment should have read and understood the HSE information, have a good knowledge of the work processes used at work and be able to collect and understand relevant information.

A plan of action based on assessment should be drawn up and put into effect:

• make a list of equipment that may cause vibration, and what sort of work it is used for.
• collect information about the equipment from equipment handbooks (make, model, power, vibration risks, vibration information etc).
• make a list of users of vibrating equipment and which jobs they do.
• note as accurately as possible how long users’ hands are actually in contact with the equipment while it is vibrating, in some cases this may only be a few minutes in several hours of work with the equipment.
• ask users which equipment seems to have high vibration and about any other problems they may have in using it, e.g. its weight, awkward postures needed to use the tool, difficulty in holding and operating it.


Group your work activities according to whether they are high, medium or low risk and then plan your action to control risks for the users at greatest risk first.

High risk

Users who regularly operate: vibrating tools for more than one hour per day; or some rotary and other action tools for more than about four hours per day. Users in this group are likely to be above the exposure limit value set out in the Regulations. The limit value could be exceeded in a much shorter time in some cases, especially where the tools are not the most suitable for the job.

Medium risk

Users who regularly operate: vibrating tools for more than about 15 minutes per day; or some rotary and other action tools for more than about one hour per day. Users in this group are likely to be exposed above the exposure limit value set out in the Regulations.

Machinery manufacturers are obliged to include information on vibration levels in their manuals, however be aware that this will have been carried out in “ideal conditions” and may have no correlation with the conditions that you will be using the equipment in.

Control the risks

When you have identified who is at risk, you need to decide how you can reduce the risks. You must do all that is reasonable to control the risk.

Equipment selection

Make sure that equipment selected or allocated for tasks is suitable and can do the work efficiently. Equipment that is unsuitable, too small or not powerful enough is likely to take much longer to complete the task and expose employees to vibration for longer than is necessary. Select the lowest vibration tool that is suitable and can do the work efficiently.

Equipment is likely to be replaced over time as it becomes worn out, and it is important that you choose replacements, which are suitable for the work, efficient and of lower vibration.


Introduce appropriate maintenance programmes for your equipment to prevent avoidable increases in vibration (following the manufacturer’s recommendations where appropriate).

Example: Check and sharpen chainsaw teeth regularly (following the manufacturer’s recommendations) to maintain the chainsaw’s efficiency and to reduce the time it takes to complete the work.

Work schedules

Plan working schedules to avoid individuals being exposed to vibration for long, continuous periods – several shorter periods are preferable.

Where tools require continual or frequent use, introduce rotas to limit exposure times (you should avoid users being exposed for periods which are long enough to put them in the high risk category).

Good Practice

Ensure that all users of equipment are aware of and implement:

• changes to working practices to reduce vibration exposure;
• correct selection, use and maintenance of equipment;
• correct techniques for equipment use, how to reduce grip force etc.
• maintenance of good blood circulation at work by keeping warm and massaging fingers and, if possible, cutting down on smoking.


Provide your employees with protective clothing when necessary to keep them warm and dry. This will encourage good blood circulation which can help protect them from developing vibration white finger; on the Granite site you will find an extensive range of garments under Forestry Clothing.

Gloves can be used to keep hands warm and some are able to reduce but not eliminate vibration. On the Granite site you will find a range of gloves from Timberland including the Timberland Vibstop 1 Glove.

Tree Climbing the Safe Way

Climbing trees is by nature a hazardous job, but certain common sense precautions can ensure that the risks are kept to a minimum.

Tree climbing work is subject to the Working at Height Regulations 2005 and certain rules have to be observed.

Risks and proper precautions

The first task is to carry out a risk assessment to determine whether climbing is the appropriate method of carrying out the work; it may be that in fact access can be made by using a hydraulic lift commonly known as a “Cherry Picker”; use of one of these also has certain regulations and requires a trained operator.

There are some main points that must be remembered and implemented.

· All the work to be carried out at height must be properly planned, organised and most importantly supervised.

· Equipment to be used must be suitable for the task and inspected before use to ensure that it is in good condition.

· All persons involved must be competent and have had appropriate training in all the tasks being carried out.

A proper risk assessment must be carried out for the site as a whole and should include the following points:

· There must be a written emergency plan.

· All risks must be assessed accurately including proximity to hazards e.g. power lines.

· All of the people involved on the worksite must be aware of the controls in place.

· All of the workforce must comply with the identified controls.

A minimum of two people must be present the whole time that tree climbing is in operation, one of which must be on the ground and has to be trained in aerial rescue and have all the necessary equipment available, so that a rescue can be performed without delay.

All people on the site must be able to communicate with each other easily and there should be a means of communication with responsible persons off site and with the Emergency Services, e.g. by mobile phone. In particularly noisy areas it is recommended that two way radios should be used.

All the people involved should have contributed to the risk assessment and job planning and must be free to raise points of concern and have the authority to stop work if they have concerns over safety issues that arise.

Pre-planning considerations

It is essential that in the case of emergency that the location is known, in the case of rural areas grid reference and the type of access available, in the case of urban areas street names and post codes are needed.

On all access points to the area where the climbing is taking place warning and prohibition signs conforming to the Health & Safety (Safety Signs and Signals) Regulations 1996, indicating a hazardous work site with unauthorised access prohibited must be displayed. In certain areas where public access is likely the use of barrier tape, barriers or extra personnel to act as safety marshals may be required.

Fitness is important, climbing and then working may put personnel under unusual skeletal and muscular strain, and so it is essential to warm up and stretch before commencing the climb. Where possible share the climbing work between two or more climbers to give adequate rest periods. In hot weather it may be necessary to increase the number of breaks and also look at different climbing techniques.

Climbers also have to be aware of the different characteristics of tree species and the effect on the methods to be used. Particular care must be taken to assess the structure and condition of the tree and look particularly for any evidence of decay and damage.


For work off ground the helmet should be compliant to BS EN 12492 with both crown and side protection, the Arborsafe TH/1 helmet in our Granite Workwear range is ideal for this. Eye protection should comply with BS EN 166 for example the Bolle and Peltor ranges on the Granite Workwear site in the Safety Glasses section. Hearing protection should comply with BS EN 352. Suitable gloves should be worn depending on the conditions.

Of course it is also essential to have protective clothing to protect from chainsaw cuts. We have a range of products from SIP Protection to suit all needs; particularly the newer developments like the Freedom Trouser 1SRN that offer excellent protection particularly round the back of the lower leg but with lighter weight to give improved flexibility for climbing and reduce the problems of heat exhaustion.

Medical supplies

A first aid kit should always be available, but in addition to basic kit, which complies with regulations but is as it says BASIC; we recommend that each operative should have in their possession a pouch of Celox, there should also be one of these stored in the vehicle.

Celox is a British product and is a haemostatic granule which when poured into a bleeding wound, links to the red blood cells promoting rapid coagulation. In controlled tests, it was found to stop most bleeding within 30 seconds and to stop severe arterial bleeding in minutes. The sachet can be opened one handed so that the granules can be self administered.

In battlefield trials Celox achieved a 100% survival rate. It works in hypothermic conditions and also clots blood containing thinning agents such as Heparin and Warfarin. Celox does not generate heat and wont burn the patient or first aider. It is safe to use in all parts of the body including head and neck wounds. Simply pour granules into the wound and apply pressure. No specific training is needed and this will save lives.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Respiratory Masks - which one to choose?

Granite have recently included a range of Venitex Respiratory Masks on our site, these offer three levels of protection so we would like to ensure that customers understand what the levels mean and what each level protects from, so that you can select the correct one for your use.

The main Standard is EN 149:2001 and all our masks come with the CE mark to show they conform to this.

There are three levels of protection FFP1, FFP2, FFP3.

FFP1 Respirator

These protect the wearer against both solid and liquid aerosols. The level of protection given is against non-toxic contaminants in concentrations up to 4 X OEL (Occupational Exposure Limit) or 4 X APF (Assigned Protection Factor)

Ideal use is to protect operators working on hand sanding, cutting and drilling.

FFP2 Respirator

These protect the wearer against both solid and liquid aerosols. The level of protection is against low to average toxicity contaminants in concentrations up to 12 X OEL or 10 X APF

Ideal for protection against plaster, cement, sanding and wood dust.

FFP3 Respirator

These protect the wearer against higher levels of fine dust and oil/water based mists containing high toxicity contaminants. The level of protection is up to 50 OEL or 20 APF.

These are ideal for use with paints, pharmaceutical powders, biological agents and fibres.

Dolomite Test

The Dolomite test is an optional test under EN 149:2001, respirators which pass the dolomite clogging test are proved to provide more comfortable breathing while wearing respirators. This is obviously beneficial when wearing masks for protracted periods.

Granite has one mask in each of the FFP categories.


Masks can come with or without valves. Many people prefer valves as they let out the exhaled air thus reducing exhalation effort, stay cooler, are less likely to mist up eyewear and stay comfortable for longer.

Non-valve masks tend to be slightly cheaper and do prevent the wearer from contaminating their environment.

The majority of the masks in our range have valves but we do offer an FFP2 mask without a valve if that is required.