In many industries, workers are exposed to vibrations. While it may not seem like an issue on the surface, ongoing and repeated exposure to high vibration levels can result in injuries to workers.
For example, exposure to excessive vibration can disrupt vascular, nervous and muscular systems. This disruption may lead to numbness, fatigue, soft tissue damage and nerve damage. Unfortunately, the risk of excessive vibration injuries isn’t widespread or well-known, leaving tens of thousands of employees at risk for this type of injury.
Types of injury-causing vibrations in the workplace
Two vibration types can lead to issues. These include:
- Hand-arm vibration: Seen in jobs requiring hand-held power equipment like impact drills, saws and sanders.
- Whole-body vibration: Seen in aircraft pilots, heavy equipment operators, bus drivers and truck drivers.
Taking steps to reduce occupational vibration injuries
When the vibration hazard in a workplace is identified, there are several strategies employers can use to reduce the possibility of injuries. This includes reducing or eliminating the hazard and informing workers of the potential side effects.
It’s also possible to reduce cases of hand-arm vibration injuries with the following:
- Using gloves designed to reduce vibrations
- Replacing tools with low-vibration options
- Engaging in regular machinery maintenance to prevent excessive vibration
- Monitoring tools that vibrate to repair or replace them before excessive issues arise
- Screening workers using hand-arm vibration medical exams
- Ensuring regular breaks to prevent ongoing exposure
Protecting your rights after a vibration injury at work
If you experience a vibration injury on the job, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If the injury results in lost time from work or medical bills, your employer’s insurance should cover this cost. Knowing your legal options will also let you know when to file for these benefits.