Many Maryland workers may be subject to potential injuries caused over time by exposure to vibration in the workplace. Jackhammers, grinders, pneumatic wrenches, saws, sanders, heavy construction equipment and dental tools are all sources of high-rate vibration. Depending on how and where the vibration is focused in the body, the type of vibration is categorized as hand-arm vibration or whole-body vibration. The former can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, while whole-body vibration is a leading cause of lower back pain.
Although vibration monitoring is commonplace in equipment and machinery, relatively few safeguards or safety protocols exist for human vibration exposure. The European Union has set exposure limits for both types of vibration, as well as requiring equipment and tool manufacturers to disclose vibration rating data. Such limits have not been uniformly adopted in the United States.
While tools for risk and exposure assessment are available, the fact they are not frequently used creates a need for qualified personnel to perform appropriate risk assessments. However, certain measures can help limit the risk of these types of on-the-job injuries. Basic steps to prevent long-term vibration injuries include vibration-resistant work shoes, checking suspensions and tires on heavy vehicles, engaging in preventative maintenance of high-vibration equipment and training employees in proper usage and handling of equipment.
In a case involving a workplace injury, an attorney may start by looking at the type and severity of injury, as well as the company’s overall safety program and protocols. Regardless of who was at fault, workers’ compensation benefits may be available to offset lost wages, medical expenses arising from the injury and any necessary physical rehabilitation.
Source: Occupational Health & Safety, “Vibration Hazards in the Workplace: The Basics of Risk Assessment”, Rob Brauch, Feb. 1, 2015