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Validity of self reported occupational exposures to hand transmitted and whole body vibration


OBJECTIVES To assess the accuracy with which workers report their exposure to occupational sources of hand transmitted (HTV) and whole body vibration (WBV).

METHODS 179 Workers from various jobs involving exposure to HTV or WBV completed a self administered questionnaire about sources of occupational exposure to vibration in the past week. They were then observed at work over 1 hour, after which they completed a second questionnaire concerning their exposures during this observation period. The feasibility of reported sources of exposure during the past week was examined by questioning managers and by inspection of tools and machines in the workplace. The accuracy of reported sources and durations of exposure in the 1 hour period were assessed relative to what had been observed.

RESULTS The feasibility of exposure in the previous week was confirmed for 97% of subjects who reported exposure to HTV, and for 93% of subjects who reported exposure to WBV. The individual sources of exposure reported were generally plausible, but occupational use of cars was substantially overreported, possibly because of confusion with their use in travel to and from work. The accuracy of exposures reported during the observation period was generally high, but some sources of HTV were confused—for example, nailing and stapling guns reported as riveting hammers, and hammer drills not distinguished from other sorts of drill. Workers overestimated their duration of exposure to HTV by a median factor of 2.5 (interquartile range (IQR) 1.6–5.9), but estimated durations of exposure were more accurate when the exposure was relatively continuous rather than for intermittent short periods. Reported durations of exposure to WBV were generally accurate (median ratio of reported to observed time 1.1, IQR 1.0–1.2).

CONCLUSIONS Sources of recent occupational exposure to vibration seem to be reported with reasonable accuracy, but durations of exposure to HTV are systematically overestimated, particularly when the exposure is intermittent and for short periods. This raises the possibility that dose-response relations may have been biased in some of the studies on which exposure standards might be based, and that the levels in currently proposed standards may be too high. Future studies should pay attention to this source of error during data collection.

  • vibration
  • exposure
  • assessment
  • validity

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