A EUROPEAN directive, set to become UK law by 2005, will force companies to reduce workers' exposure to vibration from hand-held plant.
The Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive will limit the time employees can use vibrating tools, in an effort to reduce the risk of injury caused by vibration such as 'white finger'.
But engineer Giovanni Bisutti of Cambridge-based specialist NEWmatic is developing a pneumatic drill that can reduce the level of vibration felt by the operative by 60 per cent.
This will allow operatives to work longer hours and increase productivity, while reducing the risk of developing the white finger condition caused by nerve damage.
Hand-held pneumatic tools such as breakers can weigh up to 42 kg, but the safe limit for repeated lifting is generally regarded as being closer to 28 kg.
At these lighter weights the operator is open to higher levels of vibration because of the increased downward pressure needed on the tool.
Mr Bisutti's variable mass breaker works by transferring 15 kg of water from a separate reservoir as soon as the trigger is pressed; instantly boosting its weight from 25 kg to 40 kg and reducing the amount of pressure the operator needs to apply.
Innovation promotional body the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts is funding trials of the system, which NEWmatic hopes will attract further investment from manufacturers.