No Australian jurisdiction currently has specific vibration regulations. However many jurisdictions in Australia mention vibration to varying degrees in their general regulations (for example in the Plant, Noise or Manual Handling chapters), compliance codes or codes of practices and guidance material.
This differs to the situation in Europe where the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union issued a Directive in 2002 regarding the minimum health and safety requirements for workers exposed to vibration. The European action limit for WBV is 0.5 m/s2
Regulations (e.g. the United Kingdom Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005) arising from this directive were implemented in 2005.
However, as a hazard, vibration is covered both under the OHS Act and under Part 3.1 (Hazardous Manual Handling) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017. In addition, some of the equipment causing the problem (creating the risk) may be covered under Part 3.5 (Plant) of the regulations. Compliance Codes have now been produced for the regulations, and the Hazardous Manual Handling Compliance Code addresses vibration.
To comply with the requirements of the Manual Handling Part of the Regulations, the employer must ensure that any task undertaken, or to be undertaken, by an employee involving hazardous manual handling is identified, and the associated risks controlled at the source if possible. If the manual handling involves exposure to sustained vibration, then it is defined as being "hazardous".
The Compliance Code sections which address vibration state:
83. Whole-body vibration – the design of vibration damped equipment and engine mountings are the most effective methods of controlling vibration exposure. Other
strategies to reduce exposure include:
- improving vehicle suspension and installation of operator seats mounted on suspension systems which incorporate spring and damper elements
- ensuring that equipment implemented to reduce vibration is well maintained
- ensuring employees adjust their seats appropriately and equipment is operated within the speed suggested by the manufacturer or to a speed that reduces
- training employees about the risk control measures that have been implemented and how they should be used.
84. Hand-arm vibration – change manufacturing and construction methods or processes to eliminate the need for vibrating equipment. Where this is not reasonably practicable,
the best strategy is to purchase tools and equipment that produce less vibration.
Remember also that employers have a general duty under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) to provide and maintain for employees, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes ensuring that the use, transport and handling of plant is safe and without risks to health, providing a safe system of work, information, training, supervision, and where appropriate personal protective equipment.
The Compliance Code can be downloaded from this page of the WorkSafe website.
Further, there are a few Australian Standards on vibration, including:
- AS2670 - 2001 Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration.
- AS ISO 5349.1-2013 Mechanical vibration - Measurement and evaluation of human exposure to hand-transmitted vibration - General requirements
There are a number of other Australian standards on specific aspects of vibration. These can be searched and purchased from the SAI Global store website.
However, the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Vibration exposure and the provision of vibration control measures in Australian workplaces (the findings of which are summarised on the Effects of Vibration page) concluded:
"...it is recommended that an official investigation be undertaken on whether or not it would be beneficial for Australia to adopt the minimum health and safety requirements for vibration determined in the EU directive in regulations or codes of practice. This study could also investigate whether or not plant design standards/regulations should include specific requirements for vibration. Furthermore, Australian Standards should consider revisiting AS 2763-1988 – Vibration and Shock – Hand-transmitted vibration – Guidelines for the measurement and assessment of human exposure as it is based on the 1986 version of ISO 5349, which was revised in 2001."
In September 2012 Safe Work Australia was looking into the development of guidance and the feasibility of a model code of practice on controlling the risks of vibration at work. The report Implementation and Effectiveness of the European Directive Relating to Vibration in the workplace examines the requirements and effectiveness of the European Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) and the Directive on Vibration (2002/44/EC) as implemented in the United Kingdom. It considers whether adoption of similar regulatory framework could be appropriate for Australia. It also provides a summary of the evidence for the health effects resulting from exposure to vibration and the identified gaps in vibration health effects knowledge.
This report was commissioned from the UNSW, Canberra/Foster OHS to address a recommendation made in the 2010 Safe Work Australia publication National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance: Vibration exposure and the provision of vibration control measures in Australian Workplace which recommended the European Union directives related to vibration be investigated when considering future work health and safety regulatory policy development for vibration.As a result of the report, a decision was taken to develop a code of practice - which has not yet been done. However, Safe Work Australia has the following publications:
- Workplace vibration guidance material;
- Guide to Measuring and Assessing Hand-arm vibration;
- Guide to managing risks of exposure to hand arm vibration
- Information Sheet: Whole body vibration; and
- Information Sheet: Hand arm vibration.
These provide information on the health effects resulting from exposure to vibration from common sources in the workplace. Information is included on the levels of exposure which are known to cause health effects, and suggested control measures which can be put in place.