Protect Workers from Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome with Low-Vibration Tools

Operators of hand-held power tools such as scalers, grinders and impact wrenches are at high risk of vibration-related injuries. Routine exposure to vibration – even for short periods – can cause severe damage to blood vessels, nerves, muscles and joints in the hands, wrists and arms.

Before you dismiss those risks as hearsay, consider this: one expert has estimated that 2 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to hand-arm vibration, and as many as half of those will develop “HAVS” – Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome.[1] Symptoms range from tingling, numbness and pain to loss of color in the fingers (“blanching”) and weakened grip from nerve and blood vessel damage. With continued exposure over time, the effects can become irreversible.

Fortunately, HAVS is also entirely preventable. With the right tools and some basic mitigation strategy, workers can be highly productive on the job site while also being shielded from dangerous vibration exposure levels.


Limits on Vibration Exposure

Both ANSI (ANSI/ASA S2.70) and European Union (Directive 2002/44/EC) standards set maximum daily exposure limits based on the amount of vibration generated by a tool and the trigger time per day/shift. Exposure is measured in meters per second squared of vibration acceleration.

  • Maximum cumulative daily exposure is 5 meters/second2 of vibration acceleration for an 8-hour time-weighted average workday.
  • Monitoring and controls are mandated above 2.5 meters/second2 of exposure, requiring companies to examine the cause and prevent exposure.

What does that mean on the job site? Here are some examples of the maximum exposure time for different levels of vibration.[2] In more extreme cases, the Exposure Action Value can be reached in as little as 10 minutes when using conventional high-vibrating power tools.

ExposureMaximum Time of Exposure
2.0 m/s212 hours
2.5 m/s28 hours
3.5 m/s24 hours
5 m/s22 hours
7 m/s21 hours
10 m/s230 min.