It is common knowledge that regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration (HAV) can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and vibration induced carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).
Adhering to the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, employers are duty-bound to reduce their employees’ vibration exposure to ‘as low a level as is reasonably practicable’ – below the daily exposure action value (EAV) of 2.5 m/s2. What is more, employers must not allow their workers’ vibration exposure to exceed the daily exposure limit value (ELV) of 5.0 m/s2.
As of June 2016, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) updated its Hand-Arm Vibration Exposure Calculator, so that it can estimate and record workers’ exposure to HAV from a catalogue of ‘common tools’, including drills, grinders, cutters, nail guns and saws.[i]
Figure: New HAV Exposure Calculator (Version 5.6)
In the past, populating the Excel spreadsheet-based tool was a less intuitive process, as the vibration magnitude column required quantitative (numerical), as opposed to qualitative (categorical) data.
Figure: Old HAV Exposure Calculator (Version 4.3)
The latest version of the HSE Calculator, however, allows users to select up-to-6 pieces of equipment from a drop-down list, which then auto-fills the vibration magnitude column with ‘cautious estimates’ of exposure (‘recommended initial values’[ii]), documented in HSE’s HAV Database (see the figure below).
Figure: New Drop-Down HAV Exposure List
To complete the HAV risk assessment, the Calculator uses inputted exposure duration values to compare overall daily HAV exposure with the 2005 Regulations’ action and limit values.
Figure: Worked Example Using New HAV Exposure Calculator
How significant is this Calculator update?
In an email to Safety+Health, a spokesperson for HSE publicised that, while:
‘Some of the presentation has changed to permit the recording of more information relevant to each exposure estimate made ... There has been no change to the basic calculations’.[iii]
That being said, the renovated Calculator is beneficial in that it can generate HAV estimates in the absence of representative in-use data for specific tools, supplementary to known/available vibration magnitude data.[iv] It has undoubtedly been improved with a view to reducing future incidence of disease and preventing future progression of disease.
The British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI), for instance, has praised the computer program for being ‘easier to use and of particular value to landscape professionals’.[v]
From a claims handling perspective, the Calculator’s development may also assist with pre-litigation investigations into historic allegations of employers’ breach of duty, albeit that HSE HAV estimates are ‘cautious estimates’ which would likely exaggerate daily dose scores.
Figure: Calculator-Provided Information on Reliability of ‘Recommended Initial Value’
[i] ‘HAND-ARM VIBRATION EXPOSURE CALCULATOR AND PUBLICATION UPDATED’ (20 September 2019 BSG) <https://bsgltd.co.uk/hand-arm-vibration-exposure-calculator-and-publication-updated/> accessed 7 January 2020.
[iii] UK agency updates tool used to determine hard-arm vibration exposure’ (10 December 2019 Safety+Health) <https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/19180-uk-agency-updates-tool-used-to-determine-hard-arm-vibration-exposure> accessed 7 January 2020.
[iv] Neil Gerrard, ‘HSE launches white finger exposure calculator’ (1 October 2019 The Chartered Institute of Building) <https://www.constructionmanagermagazine.com/news/hse-launches-white-finger-exposure-calculator/> accessed 9 January 2020.
[v] ‘HSE updated hand-arm vibration exposure calculator’ (25 September 2019 BALI) <https://www.bali.org.uk/help-and-advice/documents/hse-exposure-calculator/hand-vibration.pdf> accessed 9 January 2020.