Whole Body Vibration Testing
What is it?
Whole Body Vibration (WBV) is caused from Vibrations passing through the body via machinery. Whole Body Vibration (WBV) is a widespread recognised industrial problem affecting many workers, in many industries, but particularly in construction, agriculture, forestry and transport, where vibration exposure from use of vehicles or plant in these industries is, is regular, prolonged and frequent. It is a disorder which can affect the lower back, spine and possibly the neck and shoulders. WBV has been associated with these disorders, but may not be the whole cause of such disorders, as the symptoms can be due to other causes associated with posture, and manual handling.
The most commonly reported injury relating to Whole Body Vibration is back pain. Exposure to Whole Body Vibration can cause a complex distribution of oscillatory motions and forces within the body, causing unpleasant sensations which can amount in discomfort and aggravation. The longer the exposure time the greater the chance you will suffer back injury.
Whole Body Vibration can be caused by:
- The movement of the wheels or tracks of a vehicle or mobile machine crossing an uneven or rough surface. If the driver experiences shocks or jolts, or is thrown around in the cab by such terrain, this will contribute significantly to the levels of WBV.
- Using mobile machines to excavate holes or trenches in the ground.
- Using mobile machines to load materials (e.g. sand) into Lorries.
- The rotation of helicopter rotor blades causing high WBV levels to be transmitted though the airframe into the seats.
- Boats travelling fast across rough seas.
- Railway vehicles (especially old rolling stock).
- The operation of large static compaction, hammering or punching machines, such as hammer drills and mobile crushers.
Lower back pain may be caused by prolonged exposure to WBV from the above sources, but there can be other possible contributing factors, such as:
- Poor posture whilst driving or operating plant.
- Sitting for long periods without being able to change position.
- Poorly placed controls which require the driver/ operator to stretch or twist to operate them, or driving over rough ground whilst checking over the shoulder on the operation of attached equipment.
- Manual lifting and carrying of heavy objects, especially if this is combined with the effects of WBV from driving or operating vehicles or plant.
- Repeatedly climbing into or jumping out of high or difficult access vehicle cabs.
All above factors (including WBV) can separately cause back pain. The risk will be increased, however, where a person is exposed to two or more factors together.
Who is at risk?
Some Vehicles and plant are likely to cause or aggravate back problems and involve exposure to high levels of Whole Body Vibration are:
- Forklift Trucks
- Off Road vehicles
- Tractors and Farm Vehicles and machinery
- Heavy construction/Maintenance vehicles and plant
- Excavators, loading shovels, road rollers
- Quarrying vehicles and plant
- Fast Boats
- Railway vehicles
- Large Static machines, used in compaction, hammering or punching
This is list is by no means comprehensive and where people regularly work where vehicles and plant such as these for prolonged periods, there is likely to be a risk of exposure to high levels of Whole Body Vibration (WBV). It is safest to regard regular prolonged use of any high vibration vehicle or plant as suspect, particularly if such devices produce (or are subject to) frequent shocks and/or jolts.
To successfully protect your workforce from the effects of Whole Body Vibration it is vital that you the employer has in place effective Whole Body Vibration Management Systems.
The following actions are suggested to help reduce the risk of WBV injury: Inform: Drivers can control their exposure to WBV when they know the risks and the steps they can take to reduce their exposure.
How we can help
If your business uses plant, machinery or vehicles that give you any cause for concern, we are able to undertake a complete assessment and test of all your vehicles within actual working conditions. We can also supply a range of Rebound products designed and proven to effectively reduce Whole Body Vibrations associated with vehicles and sit in machinery.
As of July 2005 new regulations came into force implementing the physical agents (Vibration) Directive 2002/44/EC. These regulations introduced amongst other things, an exposure limit value, which placed an upper limit on the amount of Whole Body Vibration a worker may be exposed to.
Some vehicles have cab or chassis suspension, in addition to or in place of seat suspension that will reduce exposure to Whole Body Vibration. Check with supplier that the suspension(s) fitted will reduce WBV in the intended application(s) - suspensions can amplify vibration if used in the wrong circumstances!
Suspended seats need to be properly adjusted to the middle of the suspension range for the drivers weight-some seats are self adjusting. The vehicle should not be driven so fast that the suspensions reach the end of their travel and hit end stops, causing jolts that may injure the user.
In some circumstances it may be appropriate to share driving activities among the workforce but beware of increasing the numbers exposed to risk.
Encourage workers to report back injuries and any back pain so that you can take action to stop it getting worse.