Causes of Vibration

What kinds of tools and equipment can cause ill-health from vibration?

There are two types of vibration - Whole Body Vibration (WBH) and Hand-Arm Vibration (HAV).

Operators, drivers and passengers of machines and vehicles in workplaces can be exposed to harmful levels of whole body vibration. The main sources of harmful WBV in vehicles and machines are:

  • rough road and surface conditions and resistance forces, e.g. mobile plant with scraper blades
  • vehicle activity
  • engine vibration

Factors that can increase or decrease WBV exposure include:

  • road construction/ maintenance
  • vehicle type/design
  • vehicle age/condition
  • maintenance of vehicle suspension systems
  • seat design, suspension and maintenance
  • cab layout, design and orientation
  • task design and work organisation
  • vehicle speed, driver skills and awareness
  • lighting and visibility

Hand-arm vibration  is vibration transmitted to the hand and arm during the operation of hand-held power tools and hand-guided equipment, or holding materials being processed by machines. Hand-arm vibration is commonly experienced by workers who regularly use tools such as jackhammers, chainsaws, grinders, drills, riveters and impact wrenches.

Exposure to hand–arm vibration can be increased by factors such as:

Tool characteristics:

  • Higher magnitude of acceleration of vibration
  • Poor tool maintenance
  • Minimal handle insulation
  • Increased weight of tool
  • increased surface area of hand in contact with tool
  • harder material being contacted

Work organisation:

  • Long exposure during each work shift and years of exposure
  • lower duration and frequency of rest periods
  • lower temperature of work environment

Individual's characteristics:

  • gripping the handle more tightly than needed
  • Awkward postures and working overhead
  • Low operator skill ; poor technique
  • individual lifestyle factors (e.g. smoking)
  • an individual's medical history(e.g. disease or prior injury to fingers, hands or wrists) 

There are hundreds of different types of power tools and equipment which can cause ill-health from vibration. 

Some of the more common ones are:

  • chainsaws
  • concrete breakers/road breakers
  • cut-off saws
  • hammer drills
  • hand-held grinders
  • impact wrenches
  • jigsaws
  • needle scalers
  • pedestal grinders
  • polishers
  • power hammers & chisels
  • powered lawn mowers
  • powered sanders
  • scabblers
  • strimmers/brush cutters

Last amended June 2015