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Employers 'need not fear vibration regime'

PLANT 2005 CONFERENCE Health chief seeks to calm employers' fears over vibration monitoring policy

THE HEALTH and Safety Executive has told employers at Construction News' Plant 2005 conference not to panic about the forthcoming vibration risk assessment and monitoring regime.

Brian Coles, HSE vibration policy adviser, reminded delegates that risk assessments need to be put in place by July this year.

He said: 'We are trying to make the regime as easy and straightforward as possible. We don't want employers to find it too difficult and then not do anything about it.'

The HSE is working on 'plain English'guidance, which will advise firms to check and record who is at risk from both whole-body and hand-arm vibration, who will be above the daily threshold for action, and who will be above the maximum exposure ceiling.

He said: 'For instance, young people are especially vulnerable to whole body vibration because skeletons do not fully mature until people are in their early 20s.

'It should be a simple risk assessment.Everyone can do it without getting into a panic.The good news is that most employers will not need to employ a consultant.'

The HSE is advising that anyone who works with a hammer action tool for more than 30 minutes a day should be considered for a control regime, as should anyone who works with a rotary action tool for more than two hours a day.

Mr Coles said: 'A lower-risk tool like a sander could be used for a long time, making the risk to the user high. But our research has shown that operatives overestimate their actual tool use by a factor of three.'

Once the risks have been established a control regime based on reducing exposure, training workers and checking health should be undertaken at least yearly.

Mr Coles said: 'This can be a political issue as employees are often worried about losing their jobs if they admit to suffering the effects of vibration.But, if they let it go on, they may become so disabled they can't do any kind of a job.'

An important part of risk management is selection and maintenance of the right tools.

Mr Coles said: 'You need to talk very carefully to your purchasing people, because if you get the wrong kit, you will be stuck with it for a few years.'