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Vibration 'hysteria' is a safety distraction


Sir, As the representative body of pneumatic powered tool manufacturers, suppliers and users, our natural reaction at the British Compressed Air Society to the Plant News on October 13 ('Call for clearer vibrat ion data') might be to go on the attack and join the hysteria that has built up in some quarters.

But let us consider whether the demands for action and threats of withholding business, as expressed at the Handarm Vibration Conference, are really the way forward.

A business needs to know what its risks are. Once these are identified, a planned course of action can be undertaken.

So what information do we have about vibration?

The responsible manufacturer gives health and safety and operating instructions with type test information not directly related to exposure.

This is the only information the manufacturer provides because currently it is the only reliable information indicating the performance of the tool.

But the user wants vibration information relevant to his job, and there is no argument there from the manufacturer or from us. Vibration exposure is about on-the-job relationships between the operator, the powered tool and the work.

So there is a demand for 'user-friendly vibration data based on common, independently measured standards'.

Manufacturers are 'encouraged' ? by threats of loss of business ? to commit to work towards BS EN ISO5349.

Once a pneumatic tool leaves the manufacturer, its control over how and what it is used for is gone. Although still a mystery to us as to how it can be done, if a manufacturer could quote a figure in line with BS EN ISO5349, and a different measurement was found when it was used on a construction site, would employer, hire industry or HSE cry foul?

Is all the hysteria really based on protecting the worker or is it protecting the pockets of those who may be found liable?

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 is for employers. This clamour for figures distracts the attention from the main intention, to protect the worker by considered activities in the workplace.

Greg Bordiak Technical officer British Compressed Air Society London W1