For the month of March, we are putting in the spotlight two key areas relating to our Hazard of the Month, Occupational Health. These key areas are Hand Arm Vibration and Noise at Work.
Hand Arm Vibration
Prolonged exposure to unsafe levels of vibration can cause Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS); this is a serious, permanent and disabling condition of which 2 million people are at risk. Damage from this condition can include the inability to do fine work and the cold triggering painful finger blanching attacks. Whilst prevention is improving, there have been 5620 new cases recorded from 2010-2019, highlighting how it is still an ongoing issue even today.
Businesses that do not manage the risk of HAVs to their workers can suffer a heavy sentence. For example, just the other week the HSE announced that a foundry had pleaded guilty to failing to discharge the duty imposed upon it by Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at work etc Act 1974 after three of its employees developed and were subsequently diagnosed with HAVS. The company was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £9,453.
The most important thing to emphasise is that HAVS is preventable and there are solutions to help you manage risks in the workplace, as specified in The Vibration at Work Regulations 2005. This requires employers to:
- Control vibration exposure in the workplace.
- Provide information, instruction and training to employees on the risk and the actions being taken to control place.
- Provide suitable health surveillance.
If you want to learn more about making sure vibration is adequately controlled in the workplace, our Hand Arm Vibration online training course is a great introduction for people who use vibration tools, or who supervise employees using vibration tools, in their work.
Noise at Work
Noise is a part of our day to day lives, however, too much noise can cause permanent damage to our hearing. Both acute and chronic noise exposure can lead to impaired hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), psychological effects such as stress as well as cardiovascular effects such as hypertension.
The latest data shows that from 2017/18 to 2019/20, there was an estimated number of 17,000 workers with work-related hearing problems as well as 95 new cases of occupational deafness in 2019.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB) and is covered in The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. If employees are exposed to a daily (or weekly) average of 80dB or over employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training. If noise exposure is equal too or exceeds 85dB employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones. There are several options to reduce noise exposure such as using quieter equipment, providing barriers and limiting time spent in noisy areas. However, sometimes noise exposure is still high; in these situations, hearing protection should be worn as a last line of defence.
There are several types of hearing protection available:
- Earmuffs totally cover your ears, fit tightly and have no gaps around the seals. Nothing should interfere with the seal as tension is important to ensure protection.
- Earplugs go right in the ear canal but don’t cover the full ear. Instructions on how to use should come with the plug. Can come as either disposable or reusable.
- Semi-inserts/canal caps are held across the ear canal by a band. These are like earplugs and, as with earmuffs, tension is essential.
It is important that hearing protection is always kept in a good, clean condition ensuring seals are not damaged and tension is not reduced. In addition, no unofficial modifications should be added to hearing protection.
If Noise is a concern at your workplace, our Noise at Work online training course is ideal to raise awareness of the risks associated with over-exposure to noise for all employers and employees.
Because of the truly valuable information they offer, for this month only we have a 10% discount for these two courses as we feel they are a great resource to help ensure workplace safety. Just use the code ‘health10‘ at checkout!