Exposure to hand-transmitted vibration can cause neurological, vascular and bone and joint disorders in the upper limbs. Exposure to whole-body vibration can cause musculo-skeletal disorders of the spinal system: the most frequently reported adverse effects are low back pain, early degeneration of the spine and herniated inter-vertebral discs. Although standards exist for evaluating human exposure to both hand-transmitted and whole-body vibration, the current criteria are not based on systematic epidemiological investigations. The assumed dose-effect relationships are not proven and do not take account of the many confounding factors which influence the hazards to workers caused by exposure to hand-transmitted vibration and whole-body vibration. Moreover, there are no harmonised methods for either regular health surveillance or the evaluation of compensation claims which can be applied by occupational health workers across Europe.
The project will develop common methods for health surveillance, including the development of improved methods for the detection and diagnosis of disorders. Dose-response relationships will be established between vibration exposures and injury, through collaborative epidemiological research. The interaction between vibration and other environmental, ergonomic and individual factors, wiil be investigated through collaborative laboratory experiments. The research will also consider current standard methods for hazard surveillance and for testing the protection provided by gloves and seats, so as to improve methods for preventing disorders. The results will be promoted to national, ISO and CEN working groups for the development of future standards concerned with: (i) the evaluation of exposures to hand-transmitted and whole-body vibration; (ii) guidance and dose-effect relationships for hand-transmitted vibration and whole-body vibration; (iii) diagnostic tests for vibration injuries; (iv) the testing of protective equipment.
Whole-body vibration, hand-arm vibration, vibration-induced white finger, standards, musculo-skeletal disorders, biodynamics, health surveillance, vibration injury, dose-response, epidemiology.
To develop uniform methods, for application by occupational health physicians throughout Europe, for the detection and prevention of injury due to vibration exposures at work, alone or in combination with other risk factors. The scope of the project covers both vibration transmitted to the hands by vibrating hand tools and vibration transmitted to the body via the seats of industrial vehicles.