Author:International Labour Organization
Meetings-MESHA-Final Code-2010-10-0355-1-En.doc/v2 115
13. Vibration
13.1. Introduction
13.1.1. Vibration in the workplace is generally classified as:
(a) whole body vibration, which is transmitted by sitting or standing on vibrating
surfaces, such as when driving tractors and other farm machinery. Prolonged
exposure can lead to severe back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders; and
(b) handarm vibration, which is transmitted through the use of hand-held powered
equipment like chainsaws, brush cutters and hedge trimmers. Prolonged exposure can
lead to damage to the hand and arm muscles (handarm vibration syndrome), joints
and nerves.
13.1.2. Short duration exposure to whole body vibration or to handarm vibration
may result in temporary disability, but prolonged or repeated exposure leads to permanent
damage. The main concerns are therefore the magnitude of vibration transmitted and the
duration of exposure. Exposure to whole body vibration is unlikely on its own to cause
injuries, but it can aggravate existing back injuries which may cause pain.
13.1.3. As with noise, vibration is best reduced or eliminated at source through
good design of equipment. For example, tractors with in-built suspended cabs or chainsaws
with anti-vibration mountings can reduce vibration emission levels significantly.
Engineering controls to reduce vibration subsequently may be possible but these are
usually less effective. PPE, such as anti-vibration gloves, is not a substitute for engineering
controls and should only be considered as a last resort. However, exposure levels will be
reduced by spending less time working with vibrating equipment.
13.2. Hazard description
13.2.1. Common sources of whole body vibration include driving or standing on a
tractor, all-terrain vehicles or other machinery to perform tasks like baling, drilling,
foraging, spraying, ploughing and harrowing. The effects of whole body vibration are
made worse by driving over rough ground or over bumps or potholes. It is also
experienced when standing on vibrating platforms, such as mechanical harvesters and
motorized tree fruit picking platforms, or working near large machinery, such as milling or
threshing machines.
13.2.2. Common sources of handarm vibration in agriculture are the use of hand-
held vibratory tools and equipment, such as chainsaws, brush cutters or grinders. Other
sources include impact wrenches used in equipment maintenance and repair, chainsaws,
brush saws and weed saws, portable fruit, nut or kapok harvesters and vibro-compactors.
13.3. Risk assessment
13.3.1. Employers should assess the risks to their workers from both whole body
vibration and handarm vibration, and in particular:
(a) identify the sources of vibration and the tasks that give rise to exposure, considering
the types of equipment being used, the conditions under which they are used and the
duration of exposure;

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