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Prevalence and pattern of occupational exposure to hand transmitted vibration in Great Britain: findings from a national survey


OBJECTIVES To estimate the number of workers in Great Britain with significant occupational exposure to hand transmitted vibration (HTV). Also, to identify the occupations and industries where such exposures arise, and the main sources of exposure.

METHODS A questionnaire was posted to 22 194 men and women aged 16–64, comprising 21 201 subjects selected at random from the age-sex registers of 34 general practices in England, Scotland, and Wales, and a further 993 subjects selected at random from the central pay registers of the three armed services. Among other things, the questionnaire asked about exposure to sources of HTV in current and earlier employment. Responses were assessed by occupation and industry, and prevalence estimates for the country as a whole were derived from census information on occupational and industrial populations nationally. Estimates were also made in exposed workers of the average daily dose of vibration (A(8) root mean squared (rms) for the past week, based on their reported sources and durations of exposure.

RESULTS Usable questionnaires were returned by 12 907 subjects (overall response rate 58%). From these it was estimated that some 4.2 million men and 667 000 women in Great Britain are exposed to HTV at work in a 1 week period, and that personal daily exposures to vibration exceed a suggested action level equivalent to 2.8 ms-2 for 8 hours (A(8) >2.8 ms-2 rms) in at least 1.2 million men and 44 000 women. High estimated doses (A(8) >5 ms-2 rms) arose most often in bricklayers and masons, gardeners and groundsmen, carpenters and joiners, electricians and electrical maintenance fitters, and builders and building contractors. The industries where high A(8) values most often arose were construction, motor vehicle repair and maintenance, manufacture of basic metals, and agriculture. The most common sources of exposure were hammer drills, hand held portable grinders, and jigsaws.

CONCLUSIONS Exposure to HTV is surprisingly prevalent, and preventive measures and health surveillance may be warranted for many men in Britain. Control strategies should focus on prevention at source, with priority accorded to the common sources of exposure and the occupations in which significant exposures tend to arise. Many vibratory tools that are common in Britain have been overlooked in previous surveys, highlighting an important focus for future research.

  • hand transmitted vibration
  • population
  • prevalence
  • exposure

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