Safe Work Australia Releases Vibration Guidance Document

Industries where Australian workers are exposed to vibration range from mining and construction to manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, trades, transport, and utilities; the cost amounted to $134 million in workers' compensation payments during the most recent 14 years.

A new guidance document from Safe Work Australia about the effects on workers of vibration in workplaces is meant to help them manage the risks of what can be a permanently disabling hazard. During the past 14 years, about 5,260 workers' compensation claims have been filed for injuries or illness attributed to exposure to vibration, according to the agency.

Industries where Australian workers are exposed to it range from mining and construction to manufacturing, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, trades, transport, and utilities; the cost amounted to $134 million in workers' compensation payments during those most recent 14 years.

"Safe Work Australia has released guidance material and technical information about managing the risks associated with vibrating plant to increase awareness and help workplaces manage this hazard," said Michelle Baxter, Safe Work Australia's CEO.

The material includes guides to help health and safety professionals measure and assess vibration in workplaces. There are two main types of vibration, hand-arm vibration (HAV) and whole-body vibration (WBV), with exposure to vibration normally occurring while operating powered handheld or hand-guided machinery, such as angle grinders, drills, jackhammers, and chain saws, or while travelling in vehicles. The effects of HAV can include white finger, carpel tunnel syndrome, occupational overuse syndrome, sensory nerve damage, and muscle and joint damage in the hands and arms, while prolonged exposure to WBV raises the risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as lower back pain; motion sickness; bone damage; heart, stomach, and digestive conditions; respiratory, endocrine, and metabolic changes; impaired vision or balance; and reproductive organ damage.

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