HAVS and The Power of Data


What is HAVS?

Hand-arm vibration can cause a range of conditions collectively known as hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) as well as specific diseases such as carpal tunnel or white finger syndrome.

Despite the severity of the condition, the reality is often that vibration is ignored in the workplace or regarded as a low priority compliance issue. In fact, monitoring is a straightforward process of collecting and understanding vibration data to protect workers from painful and permanent damage.

Hand-arm vibration (HAV) is the vibration transmitted from work processes into workers' hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools such as road breakers, hand-guided equipment such as angle grinders or by holding materials being processed by machine such as pedestal grinders.

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to significant and permanent ill health, including reduced dexterity and painful damage to the blood vessels, nerves and joints. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or work process is a regular part of a person's job.

The Vibration Regulations

The duty of the employer is to reduce employee exposure to HAV as much as practically possible. The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 give comprehensive information on the elimination or control of vibration exposure for employees. Using specialist instrumentation, and the exposure action and limit values, the risks Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) poses to an individual can be calculated.

The Regulations include an exposure action value (EAV) and an exposure limit value (ELV) based on a combination of the vibration at the grip point(s) on the equipment or work piece and the time spent gripping it. This is displayed as A(8), to demonstrate an average over eight hours. Exposure can be measured on a points system, so there are clear and easy to follow limits that should not be exceeded in the specified time period. Exposure action value (EAV) = 100 points and exposure limit value (ELV) = 400 points.

Which jobs and industries are most likely to involve hand-arm vibration?

Jobs requiring regular and frequent use of vibrating tools and equipment and handling of vibrating materials are found in a wide range of industries, for example but not limited to:

  • Building and maintenance of roads and railways
  • Construction
  • Estate management and grounds maintenance
  • Forestry
  • Foundries
  • Heavy engineering
  • Manufacturing concrete products
  • Mines and quarries
  • Motor vehicle manufacture and repair
  • Public utilities
  • Shipbuilding and repair

The process that a company would follow when thinking about vibration exposure:

Identify all Tools that Need Monitoring

There are hundreds of different types of hand-held power tools and equipment which can cause ill health from vibration. Some of the more common ones are, but not limited to:

  • Chainsaws
  • Concrete breakers/road breakers
  • Cut-off saws (for stone etc)
  • Hammer drills
  • Hand-held grinders
  • Impact wrenches
  • Jigsaws
  • Needle scalers
  • Pedestal grinders
  • Polishers
  • Power hammers and chisels
  • Powered lawn mowers
  • Powered sanders
  • Scabblers
  • Strimmers/brush cutters

Measure the Vibration Magnitude of Each Tool

Ideal approach:

This can be done directly on the tool by using instruments such as the SV106 or SV103.


Using instruments such as those displayed above, you will be able to measure the A(8) value.

The A(8) value is the average vibration magnitude of the tool. This will be measured on the tool using it in as close to real life circumstances as possible.

The tool will be measured in different applications, with different personnel, to get a real vibration magnitude A(8).

Another approach:

An alternative is to use an existing database, such as that provided by a manufacturer such as HAVi. They have collated and published data on a variety of tools that they have already measured. This is an average and is not measuring the specific tool and use case.

We do not recommend:

Using the vibration magnitude of the tool which can be found in the manufacturer’s guidelines. This is similar to using the manufacturer’s advertised mpg on your car, it is an optimum figure achieved under ideal conditions and there can be many factors that alter it.

Monitor Exposure with a Tool Timer

Once you have the vibration magnitude of the tool, you can then use a tool timer, such as the HAVi system, to monitor exposure levels. If a more accurate measurement is required, the SV103 works similar to a tool timer while also measuring vibration magnitude.

Usually, companies will take a representative sample of employees and tools, rather than monitoring all the tools with all employees at the same time.

Collect and Analyse Data

Data is then collected on the instrument and can either be downloaded to a PC for analysis or stored on the manufacturer’s cloud systems such as HAVi-Total or Svantek’s SvanNet.

Reports can be generated to show key information such as:

  • Product utilisation
  • Which tools or activities generate most exposure
  • Users close to or exceeding EAV or ELV points
  • Total points accrued by operator.

In the example data below for example, we can see that the Makita Angle Grinder equates to 88% of total exposure.


Example data source: HAVi Technologies Ltd, November 2020

The HSE provide useful guidance for employers. HSE materials which support the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 include a calculator to assist in calculating exposures for hand-arm vibration. The HSE also offer a separate calculator for whole body vibration (WBV).


Vibration calculator: HSE, March 2021

Taking Preventative Action Against Harmful Vibration

Once a clear picture has been established of the risk within a business, steps can then be taken to investigate alternative processes to avoid or reduce the use of vibrating equipment. These are often easily achievable in terms of practicality and cost. Where the use of vibrating equipment is unavoidable, the HSE website has a dedicated section on managing HAV risks across different industries which many business use to manage their own HAV assessment programmes.

An alternative is to engage a consultant to undertake HAV assessment on behalf of the organisation. Or a further option is to use a specialist provider such as Shawcity who can provide impartial support and product training so businesses can carry out their own internal programme.

If you would like any further free information or advice on HAVS, please contact the team at Shawcity on Tel: 01367 899418 or email: solutions@shawcity.co.uk



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