Workers in physical occupations within the mining, construction and manufacturing industries face a number of hazards on an everyday basis. While many understand the consequences of risks that they can see, it is often the smallest issues that can cause the greater danger.
Take workplace vibrations for example. Safe Work Australia states that there were more than 5,000 workers' compensation claims for illnesses or injuries caused by vibrations over the past 14 years. At a cost of $134 million over this period, vibrations are an issue that employers and workers need to begin to take seriously.
What are vibration risks?
It is important to note that vibration doesn't just impact those in the industries listed above. Safe Work Australia also mentioned agriculture, forestry, fisheries, trades, transport and utilities sectors where workers need to be aware of vibration.
Vibration risks can be categorised into two main types – hand-arm vibration (HAV) and whole-body vibration (WBV). Both occur when workers use powered handheld or handguided machinery such as chainsaws or operating a vehicle.
The main difference between HAV and WBV is the duration and nature of exposure. If a worker is using an angle grinder for a considerable amount of time, the vibration may begin to affect their entire body rather than just their hands and arms.
Health risks of vibration in the workplace
All forms of vibration cause injury or illness. Safe Work Australia reports that HAV can result in carpal tunnel syndrome, sensory nerve damage and occupational overuse syndrome.
Additionally, WBV can cause more serious health concerns. This might include musculoskeletal disorders, impairment of vision or balance and reproductive organ damage.
Safe Work Australia response
To address this growing problem, Safe Work Australia has redeveloped its vibration guides to help work health and safety professionals.
Chief Executive Officer Michelle Baxter explained that these professionals need to understand how to measure and assess the risk of vibration.
"Safe Work Australia has released guidance material and technical information about managing the risks associated with vibrating plant to increase awareness and help workplaces manage this hazard," she said.
Workplace compensation in NSW
Employees injured on job sites are entitled to workers compensation. It is recommended that you contact a compensation lawyer who can advise you on how make your claim and assist you through the process.
These lawyers operate on a no win no fee basis so they can advise you on your chances for success free of charge – if they think you have a case, it's completely up to you whether you engage their services.