Whole-body and hand-arm vibration

Example for whole-body vibration

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Vibration exposure: Whole-body vibration
Source: IFA

Example for hand-arm vibration

Hand-arm vibration
Source: IFA

The effects of vibration upon human beings range from nuisance and a deterioration in performance, through the endangering of health, to actual harm to health. Human exposure to vibration at the workplace is classified as whole-body and hand-arm vibration, according to the point of action.

Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance on Noise and Vibration (LärmVibrationsArbSchV)

The European Directive 2002/44/EC (PDF, 38 KB) protecting employees from the harmful effects of vibration at the workplace has been in force since July 2002. As an aid to transposition on the national level, a guide has been issued which is targeted at the member nations. Manuals on the subject of hand-arm vibration (PDF, 1.5 MB) and whole-body vibration (PDF, 2.6 MB) in German are available for download.

The Occupational Health and Safety Ordinance on Noise and Vibration of 6th March 2007 converts the EC Directives for the Protection of Employees from Vibration and Noise respectively into German national law. The March 2015 technical rules under the German Ordinance on noise and vibration protection (TRLV Vibrationen) provide information on the ordinance's implementation.

A risk assessment must be performed for workplaces associated with vibration exposure. In this context, the daily vibration exposure value A(8) describes the daily vibration exposure over a standardized duration of eight hours. The value is formed from the duration of exposure (the duration of contact with a vibrating surface) and a vibration parameter. For hand-arm vibration, the vibration parameter is the vibration total value; for whole-body vibration, the frequency-weighted accelerations in the three axes of measurement are required. It is important to note that these vibration parameters are strongly dependent upon the local conditions. They can be obtained from measurements or by estimation with the aid of further sources of information (such as manufacturers' data). Online calculators (HAV, WBV (XLSX, 35 kB)) can then be used to calculate the A(8) value and to compare it to the exposure action and exposure limit values defined in the German Ordinance on noise and vibration protection. The exposure action value is 2.5 m/s2 for hand-arm vibration and 0.5 m/s2 for whole-body vibration. The exposure limit value is 5 m/s2 for hand-arm vibration; for whole-body vibration it is 0.8 m/s2 for the vertical (z) axis of vibration and 1.15 m/s2 for the horizontal (x and y) axes of vibration.

If the action values of the A(8) are exceeded, technical and organizational preventive measures must be taken. If present, personal protective equipment must be made available and used. Measures for occupational medical prophylaxis must be made available. The daily vibration exposure must not exceed the exposure limit values.

Guides in the form of generic standards for all machine types are also already available, as are:

Further guides to prevention: Project for the prevention of work-related complaints and diseases of the hand-arm system (inqa-produktion).

Measurements, consultancy, testing

On behalf of the accident insurance institutions, the IFA conducts measurements and consultancy concerning workplace exposure to vibration. The institute is a notified body authorized to measure the vibration emissions of machines and for personal protective equipment. It is also an accredited body for the vibration testing of vehicle seats in the commercial sector. This includes, for example, the measurement of emissions on numerous hand-held and manually guided machines, and on industrial trucks. In addition, the seats of earthmoving machinery, industrial trucks, articulated vehicles, antivibration gloves (PDF, 128 kB) and damping surfacings are tested for their required capacity to reduce vibrations. All tests are based upon test procedures which are standardized at international, European or national level.

Risk assessments required under the German Ordinance on noise and vibration protection are also conducted by the following specialist test bodies:

List of test bodies (PDF, 79 KB)

Occupational diseases

Should the intensity reach certain levels, exposure over a period of years to whole-body vibration in a seated position may cause damage to the intervertebral disks of the spine (formally recognized occupational disease No. 2110). Hand-arm vibration can cause damage to joints (formally recognized occupational disease No. 2103) or circulatory disorders (formally recognized occupational disease No. 2104), and together with other effects may also cause carpal tunnel syndrome (formally recognized occupational disease No. 2113). Prevention in this area is therefore important.

Information for the Accident Insurance Institutions

The IFA stores the results of workplace vibration exposure measurements in the VIBEX database. These data are available to the Accident Insurance Institutions upon request, for example for clarification of the conditions regarding the work arrangements for the recognition of suspected cases of occupational disease (refer also to BIA Report 3/2002, BGIA Report 10/2006, IFA Manual: code 220 220; all in German only).

The Accident Insurance Institutions have at their disposal an occupational anamnesis software application for vibration. This application, developed by the IFA, satisfies the quality requirements commonly agreed as a basis for the processing of suspected cases of occupational disease.

Hand-arm vibration depicted by NAPO:

URL www.napofilm.net

Video clip (WMV, 4.4 MB)(WMV, 4.4 MB) (WMV-file)

The latest information on transposition of the 2002/44/EC vibration directive

  • Expert review on implementation of the vibration directive
  • Non-binding guide to good practice with a view to implementation of directive 2002/44/EC on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (vibrations)

Updated BGIA Report

Vibration exposure at workplaces - Parameters for hand-arm and whole-body vibration exposure

Parameter calculator


Christian Freitag

Division 4: Ergonomics, Physical environmental factors

Tel: +49 (0)2241 231 2611
Fax: +49 (0)2241 231 2234