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HSC rules to reduce 'white finger' risks

The Health and Safety Commission has published two public consultation documents on the proposed new Control of Vibration at Work Regulations.

The rules will require employers to take action to prevent their employees from developing diseases caused by exposure to vibration at work from equipment, vehicles and machines.

Two types of hazard are covered; hand-arm vibration, which affects people who use hand-held power tools, and whole-body vibration, which occurs when people are sitting or standing on industrial machines.

Hand arm vibration is said to be common in vehicle manufacture and repair – some hand-held portable power tools transmit vibration into the operator's hand and arms. Tools that are selected need to be designed and constructed to reduce the risk of vibration and used only by trained workers.

Around 3000 new claims for industrial injury disability benefit are made each year in relation to vibration 'white finger'. The courts have also awarded large sums of compensation including £210,000 for a railway employee.

The regulations will specify daily levels of vibration exposure where employers will be required to take action to control risks and prevent further exposure. They must come into force by July 2005 to implement the European Physical Agents (Vibration) Directive on time. Consultation ends in March 2004.

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