Vibration transmitted through the seat or feet is known as whole-body vibration (WBV) – and it can lead to fatigue, insomnia, headaches, and muscle fatigue, especially in the back. Depending on the terrain, all those expansion plates on bridges and speed bumps can lead to lower back pain over time – something that tends to hit older workers with a greater impact.
CCOHS raised the topic on Twitter, with the tweet “Not-so-good-vibrations: Learn about the risks of hand-arm & whole body vibration hazards in the workplace” and a link to a one of their podcasts Vibration Hazards in the Workplace.
I recently learned more about vibration as a safety hazard from SafetyDriven – the Trucking Safety Council of BC. They talked about whole-body vibration at their recent conference/AGM – which presented research by ergonomists in Washington State who want to see if providing people with new seats has any effect on low-back pain and work function. Look at Whole Body Vibration to see how researchers are collecting and measuring vibration data. They have been looking at the differences between mechanical and air suspension on the seats of trucks.
A article from the March 2013 SafetyDriven newsletter describes us – human beings – as “incredibly complex structures – performing the widest imaginable tasks day in and day out.”
“In our efforts to do more, we increase our reliance on machinery that exposes us to long periods of whole body vibration. In response, our bodies experience physiological failures much the same way our machines experience mechanical failures,” the newsletter reads.
Thankfully there are ways to minimize these risks, including seats with air suspension and ongoing research into what’s working for drivers, as the SafetyDriven conference video shows. I will update on this topic and hope to hear your comments.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the UK also offers a number of resources on whole-body vibration, including a whole-body vibration calculator that “… calculates the daily vibration exposure that an employee is subjected to allowing the employee to analyse the risk and an employer to meet health and safety requirements.”