Taking steps to reduce construction worker exposure to vibrations while on the job benefits the crew’s well-being, and it also makes for a safer, more productive environment. Exposure to strong vibrations can be quite uncomfortable, but consistent exposure over time can also cause injuries—even permanent ones—such as chronic back or neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and others.
And, in the short term, vibrations contribute significantly to construction worker fatigue. This of course increases the risk of accidents, posing a threat to crew members, equipment, and materials, and it reduces efficiency, attention to detail, and overall productivity.
So many of the most common hand-held and hand-guided tools and heavy equipment used in construction cause significant vibrations that pass from the equipment into the user’s body. While there’s really no way to avoid exposure, there are effective ways to minimize it—and the potential for fatigue and harm. So, here are some tips to help you reduce construction worker exposure to vibrations at your company.
How to Minimize Crew Members’ Exposure to Vibrations
- Be mindful of work that involves exposure to vibrations when creating schedules; vary tasks to prevent workers from doing those that expose them more than once close together
- Remember that hand-arm vibrations aren’t the only concern; operating heavy equipment—especially on rough ground conditions—is a source of whole-body vibrations
- Use frequent worker rotation for tasks that entail significant exposure to vibrations so that no one person is exposed for a long stretch of time
- Give workers a 10 to 15-minute break every hour when doing work that exposes them to vibrations
- Ensure that all tools and heavy equipment are properly maintained and not used if they’re damaged or otherwise impaired
- Regularly inspect tools and machines for loose parts that can amplify vibrations, and tighten or replace them as needed
- Replace older power tools that are no longer in top shape
- Invest in high-quality newer tool and heavy equipment with vibration-dampening technologies
- Buy power tools with comfortable, well-angled grips that allow for ergonomic use and that don’t force workers to use an excessively tight grip to safely and effectively operate
- Train workers on proper posture for using tools to avoid the need for more force to operate and control them, which in turn increases exposure to vibrations
- Encourage workers to keep their hands warm and dry to promote good circulation and a proper grip on vibrating tools
- Be sure that all workers know that they can and should have damaged tools and heavy equipment removed from use
- Train employees to perform thorough tool and machine inspections before and after use, to reduce their exposure to vibrations, and to recognize the signs of worker fatigue