Whole-Body Vibration Injuries and Illnesses

While the number of injuries or illnesses caused to workers as a result of whole-body vibrations may be low in comparison to other occupational hazards, this doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Further, it is very likely that the number of injuries or illnesses caused by whole-body vibrations may be under reported.

Whole-body vibration occurs when a person’s entire body is supported by something that shakes. For construction workers this usually means sitting on a machine or a vehicle. The mechanical vibrations from the machine or vehicle are then transmitted into the entire body. Unfortunately, there is little research and information on the subject of whole-body vibration.

In the U.S., approximately 6 million American workers are exposed to whole-body vibrations for more than two hours a day. Whole-body vibration can cause a variety of health problems, most commonly low back pain.

Almost everyone is, at some point in their life, exposed to whole-body vibration. Exposure can occur in airplanes, boats and cars. Such exposure rarely causes problems. However, those in the construction, mining or similar industries may experience significant problems as a result of whole-body vibration work.

Another issue with whole-body vibrations is that it is hard to pinpoint exactly what injuries or illnesses can be attributed to it. This is because injuries are not usually immediate and instead develop over time. Further, any injuries or issues caused by whole-body vibrations can be sometimes be incorrectly attributed to other things.

While exposure to whole-body vibration can never be eliminated completely, there are ways to reduce the risks. In addition to reducing the time a worker spends driving or operating whole-body vibrations, employees should be trained on how to safely operate machinery and the importance of proper posture. Workers should also understand the fact that the more rigid the seat, the higher the level of vibrations. This is why a floating seat is always preferable. Finally, workers should know the importance of avoiding high speeds, especially on rocky, rough or uneven roads and terrain.

Companies with employees who are at risk of whole-body vibration injuries and illnesses can help to reduce exposure to whole-body vibrations. This can be achieved through rotating employees out of certain equipment and vehicles to limit exposure, purchasing higher quality equipment with seats that are specifically designed to reduce vibrations, making sure equipment is always running well and maintaining roadways as well as possible.