Coventry City Council Procures Vibration-Measuring Gloves for Highway Crew: Suitable for Vibration Risk Assessments?

Not so long ago, start-up company, Feraru Dynamics, was awarded an innovation grant of £11,992 from the Coventry and Warwickshire Innovation Programme [part funded by the European Development Regional Fund (ERDF) and delivered by participating local authorities[1]] to develop a ‘novel wearable device’ that measured exposure to vibration by taking into account ‘all the relevant parameters’.

Co-founder and managing director, Andrei Feraru, arrived at the idea for the device concept whilst undertaking a work placement at Rolls-Royce, in Derby, as part of his mechanical engineering degree, at Coventry University.

He was put in touch with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub, which alerted him to the availability of an ERDF grant.

After two years of developing prototypes and completing validation tests, with the assistance of Coventry University’s Engineering Faculty, the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and other partners in industry, the Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV)-Sentry Glove was unveiled last year. CityFibre and Callan Connect workers were the first to trial HAV-Sentry gloves on a live construction site, as part of a high-speed broadband project (digging trenches), from March 2020.[2]

On 11 January 2021, Feraru Dynamics formally announced that it had secured its first contract to supply the ‘vibrational dosage meter’ technology to Coventry City Council.[3]

It is understood that 10 pairs of HAV-Sentry gloves will be shared by 40 workers in a council highway crew to improve road construction safety, e.g. when operating heavy duty power tools and machinery, including grinders, drills, concrete breakers, etc.

Purportedly compliant with British Standard (BS) EN ISO-5349 and ISO-8041, the gloves contain a sensor unit that measures grip force, palm orientation and 3-axis acceleration at the point of contact between the human hand and the tool handle.[4]

Monitoring and analysing vibration exposure (vibration magnitude) in real-time, the gloves assist with the safe operation of work equipment by alerting operators (with sounds and visual indicators) to rest when dose levels of hand-arm vibration have been exceeded, i.e. when the exposure action value (EAV) / exposure limit value (ELV)[5] has been surpassed and the worker is at risk of contributing towards the development of hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS).

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Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration at Coventry City Council, Councillor Jim O’Boyle, is ‘really impressed’ by what he considers to be a ‘great innovation’ and is ‘pleased’ that his local authority is the first official customer.[6] Elsewhere, Account Manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, Justine Chadwick, believes that the product has the potential to make a ‘big difference’, while Paul Markgraf, Business Advisor at the Council, foresees that ‘sustained improvements’ for operators and controllers in construction will follow.

Mr. Feraru is hopeful that HAV-Sentry gloves will soon ‘take off’, having disclosed that the technology will be demonstrated to an unnamed ‘major company’ in the coming months.

Patent applications are also pending in Europe, the US and Canada.

Nonetheless, in the course of reading this article, some may draw parallels with our article in edition 273 of BC Disease News (here), on Reactec, a company which claimed that its HAVwear wrist-watch was compliant with ISO-5349, but was subsequently found not to be by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in 2017, answered 8 Questions about Vibration Exposure Monitoring under The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and stated that:

‘There is currently no wrist or glove mounted device which measures vibration suitable for use in a vibration risk assessment’.

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Persuaded by HSE, in 2019, the ASA ruled that ‘wrist (or glove) mounted transducers do not measure according to ISO/BS 5349’ and, as such, ‘the data they produce is not related to the EAV or the ELV dose values and cannot be used for comparison with them in a risk assessment’.

It will therefore be interesting to see whether the fact that HAV-Sentry’s sensor unit measures grip force, palm orientation and 3-axis acceleration at the point of contact between the human hand and the tool handle does anything to modify the current position that glove mounted devices are incapable of reliably measuring vibration exposures.

 

[1] ‘Coventry and Warwickshire Innovation Programme’ (Coventry City Council) <https://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/13/invest_in_coventry/2867/coventry_and_warwickshire_innovation_programme> accessed 13 January 2021.

[2] ‘HAV-measuring smart glove goes on trial’ (12 March 2020 The Construction Index) <https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/hav-measuring-smart-glove-goes-on-trial> accessed 14 January 2021.

[3] ‘First order secured for HAV-measuring gloves’ (13 January 2021 The Construction Index) <https://www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/first-order-secured-for-hav-measuring-gloves> accessed 14 January 2021.

[4] ‘Innovation Programme - Feraru Dynamics Ltd case study’ (Coventry City Council) <https://www.coventry.gov.uk/info/13/invest_in_coventry/2867/coventry_and_warwickshire_innovation_programme/7> accessed 13 January 2021.

[5] Regulation 4 of The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005, calculated by reference to Schedule 1 Part 1 of the Regulations.

[6] ‘Coventry business launches innovative new product’ (11 January 2021 Coventry City Council) <https://www.coventry.gov.uk/news/article/3667/coventry_business_launches_innovative_new_product> accessed 13 January 2021.