Bad Vibes

It could start with a tingling sensation in the fingertips, or a general
feeling of queasiness. Later, you might find yourself pinching your fingertips
to confirm that you really can't feel with them. Or worse, you know that
something is affecting your overall health. If your hands, arms or entire body
are exposed to vibrating equipment at work, you need to be aware of the
potential health hazards.

While the human body is built to be mobile, it was not meant to vibrate. In
small doses, vibration is harmless - think of that massage chair at the mall,
or your electric toothbrush. Unfortunately, mechanization has introduced
significant vibration hazards to the workplace. Although injuries and illness
from vibration are preventable, the effects of regular and frequent exposure to
vibration can be disabling and permanent.

As long as the exposure level is low, so is the health risk. Workers start to
experience symptoms as exposure increases. Some people are more sensitive to
the effects of vibration than others.

Whole-body vibration

People who operate mobile machines or who work near stationary machines that
vibrate are at risk of exposure to vibration. Among the workers affected are
foundry workers, shipyard workers and workers who sit or stand on a vibrating
floor or seat. Operators of off-road vehicles may experience considerable
vibration, depending on the condition of the vehicle's suspension system, shock
absorbers, seats and tires.

People who are exposed to whole-body vibration may experience fatigue,
insomnia, stomach problems, headaches and shakiness. The effect has been
described as similar to motion sickness, or the general malaise some people
feel after a long car or boat trip. Some truck drivers experience health
problems, including circulatory, bowel, respiratory, muscular and back
disorders, which may be partly associated with whole-body vibration.

Hand-arm vibration

Certain powered tools cause excessive vibration exposure to the hands and arms.
This vibration can cause a range of conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome
and "vibration-induced white finger" (VWF), "Raynaud's Syndrome" or

There are numerous hand-held power tools and equipment that can cause illness
from hand-arm vibration. Some common sources of vibration are grinders,
sanders, drills, impact wrenches, powered mowers, hedge trimmers, needle guns,
jackhammers, riveting and chipping hammers, and chain saws.

How to prevent injury

The best way to avoid injury and lasting damage from vibration is to minimize
exposure to vibration. Work should be designed in such a way that workers
exposed to vibration have long rest breaks or shake-free tasks between
exposures. In particular, employees who are older, have back problems or are
pregnant should avoid long periods of exposure.

Further Information - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety