HAV – Hand Arm Vibration

Hand Arm Vibration (HAV) is vibration transmitted from work processes into workers' hands and arms. It can be caused by operating hand-held power tools or by holding materials being processed by machines such as pedestal grinders.

The injuries / symptoms include:

  • Painful finger blanching attacks (triggered by cold or wet conditions)
  • Loss of sense of touch and temperature
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Loss of grip / strength
  • Loss of manual dexterity

The HSE estimates that there are around 36,000 people with an advanced stage of vibration white finger (VWF), which is the most well known form of hand-arm vibration syndrome. VWF is also one of the most common reasons for occupational ill health claims made against employers.

When is it hazardous

Regular and frequent exposure to high levels of vibration can lead to permanent injury. This is most likely when contact with a vibrating tool or process is a regular part of a person's job. Occasional exposure is unlikely to cause injury.

How can a tool and machine manufacturer help?

Equipment manufacturers are generally trying to improve the vibration performance of their products, so new tools and machines are likely to emit lower vibration than older equipment. You will gain the maximum benefit from these improvements if you introduce a policy of buying the most suitable equipment when you replace tools or machines.

For most types of equipment, manufacturers are required by law to:

  • Design and construct equipment, which will cause the minimum risk of vibration injury.
  • Provide you with warning of any residual risks from vibration
  • Provide you with information on vibration levels
  • Provide you with instructions on how to use the equipment to avoid risks from vibration

You should aim to buy the lowest vibration equipment suitable for the job.

Vibration levels are identified in units of metres per second squared (m/s2).

What does the law require you to do about the risks?

Health and Safety law requires you to do a number of things to protect your employees. You should:

  • Assess the risk to the health of your employees and plan for its control. Manage the risk
  • Provide suitable equipment for your employees use
  • Give your employees information and training on health risks and safe use of the equipment
  • Provide health surveillance of your employees where risks cannot be completely eliminated
  • Maintain equipment correctly
  • Provide reports to the relevant enforcing authority on cases of HAV syndrome in your workforce
  • Consult your safety or employee representative on your proposals to deal with vibration hazards

What can I do to control the risk?

There are many things you can do, several of which may cost very little and could also improve productivity and product quality.

  • Look for alternative ways of working which may eliminate the vibrating equipment altogether. For example using Pulsa 700E instead of drilling
  • Minimise the time individuals use the equipment (e.g. faster more efficient equipment, job rotation).
  • The Pulsa 700E is the fastest way to install cable management and wiring accessories.
  • Make sure your employees use the most appropriate equipment for each job
  • Maintain tools to the manufacturer's specifications to avoid increasing vibration. For example: Replace vibration mounts before they are worn out. Ensure rotating parts are checked for balance and replace them if necessary.

Get advice from the equipment manufacturer on safe use of the equipment. Introduce a purchasing policy specifying low vibration performance for new equipment.

Exposure action value (EAV) and exposure limit value (ELV)

What is the exposure action value?

The exposure action value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce the risk. For hand-arm vibration the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5 m/s2 A(8). Vibration levels are identified in units of metres per second squared (m/s2).

What is the exposure limit value?

The exposure limit value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration the ELV is a daily exposure of 5m/s2 A(8). It represents a high risk above which employees should not be exposed.

Action & limit values

Under the regulations action and limit values for hand-arm and whole-body vibration are introduced.

Exposure Action Value (EAV) = 2.5m/s2 A(8):

Level at which employers should introduce technical and organisational measures to reduce exposure.

Exposure Limit Value (ELV) = 5.0m/s2 A(8):

Level which should not be exceeded.

The vibration levels if a number Paslode & SPIT tools have been independently tested by the Off-Highway Plant & Equipment Research Centre (OPERC) and published on the HAVTEC (Hand Arm Vibration Test Centre) register.

The table below shows a summary of these results indicating the number of fixings that can be made before reaching the EAV and the ELV.

For more information vibration levels of tools in the Paslode and SPIT range please contact the technical helpdesk or go to www.operc.com/havtec.



Number of nails that can be fired within a 24hr period before reaching EAV

Number of nails that can be fired within a 24hr period before reaching ELV


63x3.1 nail fixing 25mm tile batten to structural timber. (Tite Batten to Roof Joist)


13 767


90x2.8 nail into structural timber. (Roof Frame Construction)


13 767


51mm Brad, fixing 20mm softwood onto Structural timber. (Skirting Board)



Pulsa 700P

C6-25 fixing drywall track



Pulsa 700E

HC6-27 into 7nm Concrete



Spitfire P370

SC9-15onto12mm Steel Flange. (Brick Ties to Structural Steel)



SPIT 328 (NiMH)

6 x 40mm holes to suit Tapcon TRH



IWI280 (NiMH)

Tapcon TRH Installation