When it comes to work, the construction industry can be one of the most hazardous jobs for workers to take part in. Good work requires skill, experience, and the right tools. Inadequacy in any of these areas—even from another team member—can result in mishaps for everyone.
There’s one area however, that’s been receiving more attention lately, and that is the area of power tools, especially those that cause vibrations. Vibrations themselves don’t seem like anything that could hurt a person, but is that true? Let’s take a closer look.
Tools & Vibration
Vibrations are the constant small but rapid movement of a tool. Almost anything with a motor in it vibrates to some degree, but the frequency and strength of the vibration in some power tools can be quite significant. Jackhammers, for example, are obvious sources of vibration. Not only does the jackhammer move up and down rapidly, it is making constant, harsh, physical contact with hard materials like concrete or asphalt.
Other smaller tools, usually handheld, like power drills, for example, also create constant vibrations when put into operation. This is usually due to similar issues, like impacting other hard materials. This constant vibrating can take a toll on limbs, especially hands that hold these items.
For smaller tools, one of the possible effects that operators need to keep an eye out for is vibration-induced white finger. As the name implies, this tends to change the color of the tips of extremities, so a once normal-looking finger becomes paler and whiter. This can result in tingling, loss of sensation, even a loss in gripping power, or the ability to perceive lighter, more subtle tactile sensations. It can even result in bone cysts in the fingers and wrists.
On a larger scale, hand-arm vibration, over a long enough period, can have a general, negative impact on performance. It may take several months, or even several years, but the cause is always the same; constant exposure to vibration with no attempt to treat the issue.
What You Can Do
In the 21stcentury, thanks to better awareness of the medical consequences, and more sophisticated power tool design, some power tools are now constructed with active vibration reduction mechanisms. Some vibration is unavoidable due to the mechanical nature and intended work of these tools, but vibration reduction does a good job of significantly reducing the potential risk workers expose themselves to.
Another important aspect of reducing vibration is good maintenance. As tools undergo use, parts loosen, motor performance may decline, and other important such as gears may misalign. Any of these factors can increase the amount of vibration a tool experiences, but ensuring these tools are properly maintained not only keeps the performance of the tool itself up, but it also reduces vibration exposure to workers.
Finally, workers themselves should be properly trained in the correct usage of tools. Certain hand positions are optimized to reduce vibration exposure, and workers can observe proper breaks or exercise to keep fingers and other limbs circulating correctly. Workers should also be trained to recognize when tools change in performance or notice when vibrations change.
By taking these measures, and even being mindful of including them as cautionary notes for workers to follow when they consult their time clock software for their next assignment, you can help reduce the threat of vibration damage to valuable skilled workers.