HSE Position on Whole Body Vibration in Boats and Current Exemptions
Back injury and pain related to driving activities (on land or water) is often associated with exposures to whole-body vibration. However, the cause of back pain in driving tasks may not have been vibration exposure, but issues such as poor posture or manual handling, which can be aggravated by vibration exposure.
Traveling in small fast boats produces a particularly hazardous environment for back injury where, due to the high level repeated impacts, whole-body vibration is probably the dominant cause of injury. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires that employers "ensure, so far as is reasonable practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees" and this is reinforced by the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 which introduced specific action and limit values for daily vibration exposure.
Due to the high impact nature of the vibration exposure, the A(8) exposure and limit values in the Regulations are not particularly useful to quantify the likely risk from vibration exposure in small fast boats and alternative means have been suggested by operators and seating suppliers to attempt to better quantify the risk. Some operators of small fast boats have applied for, and been granted, exemptions from the limit value of the regulations but these are subject to continual review.
It is vital that operators of small fast boats are developing solutions to migrate vibration risk and implementing health monitoring strategies to identify early sign of injury and reduce the risks of further injury.
Paul Delderfield - Specialist Inspector of Health & Safety (Noise & Vibration), Health & Safety Executive
Paul studied Automotive Engineering at university and has worked in control of noise and vibration for over 25 years. He worked in the automotive industry for 26 years, 22 years of which were for a renowned consultancy providing noise and vibration solutions to the automotive industry in Europe, China, India and Korea.
During his time in automotive consultancy he carried out a number of workplace noise and vibration assessments and carried out projects to reduce the exposure of employees to noise and vibration.
Since April 2015, Paul has been employed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as one of Her Majesty’s Specialist Inspectors of Health and Safety in the discipline of Noise and Vibration. Paul is familiar with all parts of the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 and has carried out investigations into cases of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome caused by vibration exposure in the workplace and back injury linked to Whole Body Vibration exposure.