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


OBJECTIVES To estimate the number of workers in Great Britain with significant occupational exposure to whole body vibration (WBV) and to identify the common sources of exposure and the occupations and industries where such exposures arise.

METHODS A postal questionnaire was posted to a random community sample of 22 194 men and women of working age. Among other things, the questionnaire asked about exposure to WBV in the past week, including occupational and common non-occupational sources. Responses were assessed by occupation and industry, and national prevalence estimates were derived from census information. Estimates were also made of the average estimated daily personal dose of vibration (eVDV).

RESULTS From the 12 907 responses it was estimated that 7.2 million men and 1.8 million women in Great Britain are exposed to WBV at work in a 1 week period if the occupational use of cars, vans, buses, trains, and motor cycles is included within the definition of exposure. The eVDV of >374 000 men and 9000 women was estimated to exceed a proposed British Standard action level of 15 ms-1.75. Occupations in which the estimated exposures most often exceeded 15 ms-1.75 included forklift truck and mechanical truck drivers, farm owners and managers, farm workers, and drivers of road goods vehicles. These occupations also contributed the largest estimated numbers of workers in Great Britain with such levels of exposure. The highest estimated median occupational eVDVs were found in forklift truck drivers, drivers of road goods vehicles, bus and coach drivers, and technical and wholesale sales representatives, among whom a greater contribution to total dose was received from occupational exposures than from non-occupational ones; but in many other occupations the reverse applied. The most common sources of occupational exposure to WBV are cars, vans, forklift trucks, lorries, tractors, buses, and loaders.

CONCLUSIONS Exposure to whole body vibration is common, but only a small proportion of exposures exceed the action level proposed in British standards, and in many occupations, non-occupational sources are more important than those at work. The commonest occupational sources of WBV and occupations with particularly high exposures have been identified, providing a basis for targeting future control activities.

  • whole body vibration
  • population
  • prevalence
  • exposure

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