Home HSE Articles HAVS Exposure Limits: What Is It?

HAVS Exposure Limits: What Is It?

HAVS Exposure Limits – Ever wonder what HAVS exposure limits are? In this article, we’ll go over these limits and explain what they mean.

HAVS stands for Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome, which refers to symptoms like chronic pain and tingling in the hands of workers who use vibrating hand tools such as jackhammers and grinders. HAVS Exposure Limits is an indicator of the intensity and frequency of vibration, measured by the acceleration of the tool and the duration of use, over which you could expect to see these symptoms in your workers. It’s also known as Vibration Exposure Limits or VEL (pronounced vel).

What is HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome)

Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) is a group of symptoms that develop due to exposure to vibration and repeated arm movement, often in the workplace. HAVS is not a disease or condition in itself but it can lead to other problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. The most common HAVS symptom is pain, which can be chronic. Other symptoms include swelling, tingling, numbness and burning sensations in the fingers, hands or wrists.

So, what is HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome) really? In medical terms it is defined as any combination of subjective and objective findings in a patient exposed to vibrating hand-held tools for more than one hour a day. That’s easy enough to understand, but it doesn’t tell us much about why and how vibration damages our bodies. Medical science has tried to unravel this mystery since World War I when troops were exposed to excessive vibration while firing artillery guns.

Now, we have much greater insight into what is going on in our hands and arms when we use vibrating tools. There are several factors that cause HAVS. Excessive exposure to vibration can damage blood vessels in your hands, causing swelling that disrupts nerve function and interferes with blood flow. This makes it difficult for your muscles to get oxygen, which triggers muscle spasms.

Do I have HAVS (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome)? If you use vibrating tools for more than one hour a day and are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. If you have HAVS, reducing vibration exposure and performing a simple stretching exercise program can help reduce your symptoms.

What is HAVS Exposure Limits

HAVS exposure is regulated by the EAV (Exposure Action Value), which is a time-weighted average exposure limit. The EAV is calculated by dividing the ELV (Exposure Limit Value) by an 8-hour work day.

For example, if the ELV is 10 mg/m3, then the EAV is 0.5 mg/m3 per 8 hours of work or 0.25 mg/m3 per 4 hours of workday exposure.

You can follow the details of the calculation here

HAVS exposure limit is expressed in terms of two (2) parameters – Exposure Limit Value and Exposure Action Value.

The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.

While;

The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce the risk. For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8).

Exposure to HAVS

HAVS Exposure Limits

There are many different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can place workers at increased risk of developing HAVS. Some of the more common ones are:

  • Chainsaws
  • Impulse tools
  • Ratchet screwdrivers
  • Concrete breakers
  • Cut-off saws
  • Hammer drills
  • Hand-held grinders
  • Impact wrenches
  • Jigsaws
  • Pedestal grinders
  • Polishers
  • Power hammers
  • Power chisels
  • Powered lawn mowers
  • Powered sanders
  • Brush/weed cutters, etc.

READ: RIDDOR (Reporting Of Injuries, Diseases And Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995)

Anyone using these equipment regularly is predisposed to develop HAVS.

HAVS Regulations

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to vibration at work. Employees have duties under the regulations too. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations require you as an employer to:

  • Assess the vibration risk to your employees;
  • Take action to reduce vibration exposure that produces those risks
  • Decide if employees are likely to be exposed above the:
    • Daily exposure action value (EAV) and if they are:
      introduce a programme of controls to eliminate risk, or reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable;
    • Daily exposure limit value (ELV) and if they are:
      take immediate action to reduce their exposure below the limit value;
  • Make sure the legal limits on vibration exposure are not exceeded;
  • Provide information and training to employees on health risks and the actions you are taking to control those risks;
  • Carry out health surveillance (regular health checks) where there is a risk to health;
  • Consult your trade union safety representative or employee representative on your proposals to control risk and to provide health surveillance
  • Keep a record of your risk assessment and control actions;
  • Keep health records for employees under health surveillance;
  • Review and update your risk assessment regularly.

What Are The Exposure Action And Limit Values (EAV/ELV)?

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require you to take specific action when the daily vibration exposure reaches a certain action value.

The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce the risk. For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8).

The actions you need to take are described in the rest of the employers’ web pages.

There is also a level of vibration exposure that must not be exceeded. This is called the exposure limit value.

READ: 11 Valid Ergonomics Principles For Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders In The Workplace

The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.

EAV (Exposure Action Value)

The EAV (Exposure Action Value) is the level at which a person should be protected from exposure.

EAV (Exposure Action Values) vary between industries. Certain industries may require different levels of protection; Check with your industry’s safety department for specific limits and recommendations.

EAV is not a limit in the sense that you cannot go through it, but it is a value after which you must take action.

So, if your vibration exposure exceeds the action value, you need to take action.

The EAV is 2.5 m/s² A(8)

ELV (Exposure Limit Value)

Vibration Exposure Limit also said to be Upper HAVS Exposure Limit is a limit, you are legally not allowed to exceed it.

It is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5 m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.

Possible Controls To Reduce Or Eliminate HAVS Risk Exposure

HAVS Exposure Limits

While there is no way to completely avoid HAVS risks, there are many ways to reduce or eliminate your risk exposure. You can minimize HAVS exposure by creating a control plan and implementing appropriate controls. Some examples of controls include using protective equipment, modifying the work process, and improving ventilation.

READ: What Are Reportable Incidents And Examples

These controls have been proven to work and may be especially useful for preventing long-term health problems. However, employees can also help reduce their HAVS risk exposure by taking frequent rest breaks or altering their process or technique in ways that minimize HAVS risk. Take steps today to reduce your risks by speaking with professionals who understand how to prevent HAVS injuries.

Some explicit steps you can take to reduce or minimize HAVS are:

  • Change work method or the equipment used to produce lower vibration levels,
  • Carry out visual checks on equipment condition
  • Keeping tools sharp and maintained
  • Replace damaged tools
  • Reduce the duration tools can be used for.
  • Integrate breaks and job rotation on the job.
  • Train the workers to recognize risk and learn how to manage the risks.
  • Clothing to protect from cold and damp (as these conditions can increase the risk of HAVS) is also very essential.

How To Use The HAVS Calculator

The HAVS Calculator is an easy to use, free tool that gives you a quick estimate of your HAVS exposure. Simply enter the number of hours and minutes per day you spend in each risk factor (light, noise, vibration) and it will give you an estimation of your HAVS exposure.

HAVS Calculator By Health and Safety Executives – https://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/hav/hav.xlsm

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