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Tractor and Chainsaw

Exposure to excessive vibration can lead to temporary or permanent damage to hands. In the worse cases this can result in Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVs) or Carpel Tunnel syndrome (CTs). Vibration induced damage to the fingers or hands can cause tingling and numbness, reductions to touch sensitivity or reductions to grip strength, and reduced blood circulation can cause Vibration White Finger (VWF). This condition can be severely disabling . It is preventable, but some people are more susceptible to developing it and it is important to prevent exposure and detect symptoms as early as possible.

Do you work with vibrating equipment?

You might be at risk of developing a HAVS or CTS problem if you:

  • ·operate hand-held powered tools (drill, chainsaw) or hold hand-guided equipment (lawn mower, floor polisher)
  • hold materials when operating a hand-fed machine (workshop machinery)

What to do next?

Explain the vibration issues to your manager or supervisor. The risk assessment covering the work activity must identify vibration as a hazard and must include the controls to reduce the exposure.

Equipment manufacturers must publish vibration emissions (meters/second) in their instruction manuals to help assess vibrations hazards. However, the vibration hazard is the actual amount of time spent using vibrating source (e.g.  minutes of drilling time), not simply the length of work time (e.g. workshop shift length).

Action must be taken if the daily exposure action value of 2.5m/s2 A(8) is exceeded, and the daily exposure limit is 5.0m/s2 A(8). Ask for advice from the H&SS team via .

Hand vibration control measures could include:

  • eliminate the vibration source by redesigning the task where possible
  • “buy low vibration” when purchasing new or hiring equipment
  • maintain equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions –  lubrication, cutting surfaces are sharp,  servicing defect faults and wearing parts
  • plan the work – choose the right tool to minimise the duration of vibration work, and rotate the tasks to reduce the duration of any one vibration task
  • design the working area to void over-reaching or awkward postures
  • don’t overly grip or force the tool – let the tool do the work
  • store the tool in a way to prevent cold and dry hand grips
  • use gloves to keep hands warm and dry but still retain dexterity – there are also anti-vibration gloves
  • use finger and hand massage in breaks to encourage blood flow
  • manage exposure to severe cold weather or chilled/freezing environments

What else to do?

Next complete the preliminary vibration survey form to identify vibration sources and existing control measures in place. Please return the form to  and H&SS will give advice and can arrange a vibration assessment is carried out by a competent person.

Health surveillance

If the vibration exposure is likely to exceed the EAV of 2.5m/s2 (other than as a rare occurrence), or if the individual is sensitive to vibration exposure, health surveillance will be required.  Those sensitive to vibration includes: individuals with a pre-existing diagnosis of HAVS or CTS condition, or have health conditions that restrict blood flow to the hands (e.g. Raynauds Syndrome), or have a nerve disorder affecting arms or hands. Health surveillance must be recorded on the risk assessment, and the manager or supervisor should arrange the health surveillance by completing a surveillance enrolment form.

Sources of information

Whole Body Vibration (WBV)

Whole Body Vibration (WBV) is a lower back pain condition caused by vibration transmission through the feet or when seated and operating vibrating mobile machinery, and moving over rough and uneven surfaces, such as using farms or grounds equipment (tractors, ride-on mowers). The daily exposure action value is 0.5m/2 A(8) for WBF. Speak with your manager to explain any concerns and to understand what existing control measures are in place. H&SS can provide advice on request via

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Contact details

Health & Safety Services

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  • University of Reading

    Health and Safety Services

    Whiteknights House (W027)

    Room G23

    Shinfield Road



    RG6 6UR