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Workers in many industries face vibration hazards

New York workers in manufacturing, construction and even transportation face a particularly dangerous and pervasive risk everyday. Regular exposure to vibration can lead to a variety of painful conditions, including carpal tunnel and chronic back pain. These conditions are common causes of lost work and workers' compensation claims. While vibration may be difficult to eliminate completely, it can be managed. With focused effort, employers can reduce vibration exposure and subsequently reduce the amount and severity of workplace injuries.

There are two common types of injuries related to vibration exposure. One is known as hand-arm exposure. It comes mainly from the consistent use of handheld tools that have a vibrating effect. The hand and wrist are made up of many tiny bones. The hand is also dependent on blood flow through a number of veins and arteries. It doesn't take much vibration for those bones, vibrations and arteries to become damaged. In many cases, the injury may be too painful for an employee to continue working.

The other common type of vibration-related injury is whole-body vibration. As the name suggests, it comes from work where the worker's entire body is exposed to vibration. It usually happens when a worker has to sit for long periods of time in a vibrating vehicle or piece of equipment. It usually affects the spine, leading to a back injury or neck injury that may restrict an employee's ability to work.

There are steps employers can take to prevent vibration risk. Handheld tools can be fitted with vibration preventing grips. Also, training can help workers use arm angles that reduce vibration. On vehicles, high-quality tires can reduce vibration risk. Employees who suffer vibration-related injuries may be able to obtain workers' compensation benefits to cover the costs of their treatments and provide a percentage of wages that were lost due to being unable to work.

Source: Occupational Health & Safety, "Vibration Hazards in the Workplace: The Basics of Risk Assessment", Rob Brauch, Feb. 1, 2015

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