Whole body vibration (WBV) is a physical hazard that occurs in mining workers that work with heavy machinery. For many mine workers, the initial effects of WBV are no more than discomfort or fatigue, but increasingly ‘rough rides’ in a range of vehicles are common sources. In the mining industry WBV can be caused either by spending a lot of time sitting on machinery, or working on jumbo operators. There are a number of serious symptoms of WBV and the effects on humans of exposure to vibration at best may be discomfort and interference with activities, injury or disease. Vibration is believed to cause a number of health related issues.
- joint and muscles disorders, especially the spine
- circulation disorders like hand-arm vibration
- respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine and metabolic changes
- digestive system issues
- reproductive damage in females
- vision and balance impairments
Effective management of whole-body vibration
Like other work related hazards they will need to be identified as an issue, and rectified through processes of risk management.
WBV Risk Management involves:
- identifying existing vibration hazards
- assessing whether there is a risk to health and safety
- controlling of the risk
- evaluation and monitoring of controls and solutions.
Solutions will require a mix of design and administrative measures combined with regular
monitoring to make sure the risks have been controlled and there are no new risks that have been introduced.
Common sources of whole-body vibration
There are three main sources of harmful vibration in vehicles and
• poor work surface condition and rough roads
• vehicle activity (ripping vs pushing material in a dozer)
• engine vibration to a lesser extent
There are many factors that can either increase exposure to WBV and include:
- road maintenance and construction
- vehicle design or type
- vehicle age and condition
- vehicle suspension systems maintenance
- seat design and maintenance
- cab layout
- driver skills, vehicle speed
- visibility and lighting
Exposure over long periods of time can be harmful, and prevention is better than cure. If there is an issue, bring it up, and make sure it doesn’t stay an issue.