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HSE reiterates ASA interpretation of regulations in INVC ruling

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has backed the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) interpretation of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and its associated guidance in a dispute between a manufacturer of monitoring kit and a consultancy.

On 3 April, the ASA rejected a complaint from Reactec, a manufacturer of wrist-mounted vibration monitors, that two claims made in an online advertisement on the Industrial Noise & Vibration Centre’s (INVC) website were misleading and could not be substantiated.

Reactec had taken issue first with engineering consultancy INVC’s claim that “… as wrist (or glove ) mounted transducers do not measure according to [the British standard] BS EN ISO 5349, the data they produce is not related to the EAV (exposure action value) or the ELV (exposure limit value) dose values and cannot be used for comparison with them in a risk assessment”.

Second the manufacturer challenged INVC’s claim, featured in a webpage titled “Wrist mounted vibration transducers – not again!”, seen on 14 May 2018, which said: “Now imagine you are the barrister for a HAV (hand-arm vibration) claimant… just how easy would you find it to drive a coach and horses through a risk management defence based on wrist-mounted vibration data capture? Potentially, a very costly mistake…”

Reactec reported INVC’s advertising to the ASA, which reviewed two HSE documents provided by the consultancy. The first, Hand-arm Vibration, the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005: guidance on regulations, did not state that the measurement can be taken at the wrist.

The second document, Eight Questions about Vibration Exposure Monitoring, stated that “hand-arm vibration measurements should be made with the transducer firmly attached to the vibrating surface at the point where the vibration enters the hands, and that any measurements away from the palm of the hand or where the measurement position is on the back of the hand, fingers or wrist is unlikely to provide a reliable measurement”.

It also stated there was currently no wrist- or glove-mounted device that measures vibration suitable for use in a vibration risk assessment (covered by reg 5 in the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005).

The ASA asked the HSE to respond before publishing its ruling.

The HSE reiterated that the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, which set the action and limit exposure values for vibration and which refer to international and the British Standard BS EN ISO 5349, stipulate that measurements are to be taken on the surface of the equipment in contact with the hand.  The requirement is also reflected in its guidance, which notes that, although measurement may sometimes be required, it may not be necessary if suitable vibration data is available.

The HSE told the ASA that measurements taken elsewhere, including the wrist, would not provide the data required by the standard or the regulations.

A spokesperson said: “There is no legal requirement for the continual monitoring or recording of exposure to vibration unless there are specific circumstances. What employers must do is decide what workers’ exposure is likely to be, as part of a vibration risk assessment. 

“If the risk assessment indicates the need for monitoring, then a timing system/device could be used in combination of representative vibration magnitude data. Measurement of vibration magnitude will not usually be required but may be necessary if representative vibration data are not readily available. The measuring system used should measure according to the requirements of BS EN ISO 5349-1: 2001. This standard specifies that vibration measurements shall be made on the vibrating surface at the point where the vibration enters the hand (or hands). 

“In addition to the measurement methodology standard any equipment used to measure hand-arm vibration magnitudes should comply with BS EN ISO 8041:2005. Further information about vibration exposure monitoring is available here.”

In a statement from Reactec, CEO Jacqui McLaughlin, said: “This is a complex but fundamentally important area of employee health and safety. Reactec’s HAVwear offers a mode (referred to as TEP) which fully complies with regulations and HSE guidance, and is available in addition to the real use assessment, developed for individual's protection. The ASA’s judgement was in no way a comment on the HAVwear’s credibility but a judgement on our objection to the INVC published opinions on the use of HAVwear to perform a vibration measurement in compliance with the ISO5349 standard. HAVwear is not promoted for this purpose. The measurement of vibration magnitude following ISO5349 is an intermittent activity which yields a view of what risk someone may face when they subsequently carry out the activity. HAVwear is promoted to provide everyday and all day monitoring of HAV exposure, for which there is no current standard. The HSE advise within L140 that the vibration magnitude needed for a HAV exposure assessment, need not be measured, but must be representative of the real-time activity undertaken. The HSE also advise in their FAQ (see Q8) that wrist worn devices can be suitable for monitoring HAV exposure.

“We all know the impact that Vibration White Finger has on the lives of the 300,000 people in the UK alone who live with this debilitating and permanent condition. With a further 2 million* people at risk of HAVS, the Reactec team intends to focus our efforts on helping industry to assess and mitigate the risk that these people face." 

 (*Source HSE)



Nic Warburton is acting editor, IOSH Magazine

 Nick Warburton is acting editor of IOSH Magazine. He is a former editor of SHP and has also worked on Local Authority Waste and Recycling and Environmental Health Practitioner

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