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Exposure to mechanical vibration
Improving the protection of workers against the risks arising from exposure to mechanical vibration by laying down minimum requirements with regard to the protection of health and safety.
Directive 2002/44/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 June 2002 on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (vibration) (sixteenth individual Directive within the meaning of Article 16(1) of Directive 89/391/EEC) [Official Journal L 177, 06.07.2002]
Following the adoption of Framework Directive 89/391/EEC on the introduction of measures to encourage improvements in the safety and health of workers at work, it was considered necessary to legislate on the specific problem of exposure to mechanical vibration. Vibration poses a potential risk to workers as it may give rise to musculoskeletal, neurological and vascular disorders. Directive 2002/44/EC applies without prejudice to more stringent and/or specific provisions contained in the Framework Directive.
The Directive specifies two different types of vibration:
- vibration which, when transmitted to the human hand-arm system, entails risks to the health and safety of workers, in particular vascular, bone or joint, neurological or muscular disorders; and
- vibration which, when transmitted to the whole body, entails risks to the health and safety of workers, in particular lower-back morbidity and trauma of the spine.
The Directive lays down exposure limit values and exposure "action" values (above which employers must take measures):
- For hand-arm vibration, the daily exposure limit value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 5 m/s2 and the daily exposure action value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 2,5 m/s2.
- For whole-body vibration, the daily exposure limit value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 1,15 m/s2 or, at the choice of the Member State concerned, a vibration dose value of 21 m/s1,75, and the daily exposure action value standardised to an eight-hour reference period shall be 0,5 m/s2 or, at the choice of the Member State concerned, a vibration dose value of 9,1 m/s1,75.
Workers' exposure to vibration shall be assessed or measured on the basis of the technical specifications listed in the Annex to the Directive.
OBLIGATION OF EMPLOYERS
Determination and assessment of risks
When carrying out the risk assessment provided for in Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, the employer shall assess and, if necessary, measure the levels of mechanical vibration to which workers are exposed. The level of exposure to mechanical vibration may be assessed by means of observation of specific working practices and reference to relevant information provided by the manufacturer of the equipment. That operation shall be distinguished from measurement, which requires the use of specific apparatus and appropriate methodology. These two operations shall be planned and carried out by competent services at regular intervals. The data obtained from the assessment and/or measurement of the level of exposure to mechanical vibration shall be preserved in a suitable form so as to permit consultation at a later stage
In accordance with Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, the employer shall give particular attention, when carrying out the risk assessment, to the following:
- the level, type and duration of exposure, including any exposure to intermittent vibration or repeated shocks;
- the exposure limit values and the exposure action values laid down in Article 3 of this Directive;
- any effects concerning the health and safety of workers at particularly sensitive risk;
- any indirect effects on worker safety resulting from interactions between mechanical vibration and the workplace or other work equipment;
- information provided by the manufacturers of work equipment in accordance with the relevant Community Directives;
- the existence of replacement equipment designed to reduce the levels of exposure to mechanical vibration;
- the extension of exposure to whole-body vibration beyond normal working hours under the employer's responsibility;
- specific working conditions such as low temperatures;
- appropriate information obtained from health surveillance, including published information, as far as possible.
The risk assessment shall be recorded on a suitable medium and be kept up-to-date on a regular basis.
Provisions aimed at avoiding or reducing exposure
On the basis of the risk assessment, the employer shall determine what measures to take. Taking account of technical progress and of the availability of measures to control the risk at source, the risks arising from exposure to mechanical vibration shall be eliminated at their source or reduced to a minimum.
Once the exposure "action" values (referred to under point 3 above) are exceeded, the employer shall establish and implement a programme of technical and/or organisational measures intended to reduce to a minimum exposure to mechanical vibration and the attendant risks, taking into account in particular:
- other working methods;
- the choice of appropriate work equipment;
- the provision of auxiliary equipment that reduces the risk of injuries caused by vibration, such as seats that effectively reduce whole-body vibration and handles which reduce the vibration transmitted to the hand-arm system;
- appropriate maintenance programmes for work equipment, the workplace and workplace systems;
- the design and layout of workplaces and work stations;
- adequate information and training for workers;
- limitation of the duration and intensity of the exposure;
- appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods;
- the provision of clothing to protect exposed workers from cold and damp.
In any event, workers shall not be exposed above the exposure limit value. If, despite the measures taken by the employer, the exposure limit value is exceeded, the employer shall take immediate action to reduce exposure below the exposure limit value. He shall identify the reasons why the exposure limit value has been exceeded, and shall amend the protection and prevention measures accordingly in order to prevent it being exceeded again.
Worker information and training
In accordance with Framework Directive 89/391/EEC, the employer shall ensure that workers who are exposed to the risks from mechanical vibration at work and/or their representatives receive information and training relating to risks from mechanical vibration, concerning in particular:
- the measures taken to implement this Directive in order to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the risks from mechanical vibration;
- the exposure limit values and the exposure action values;
- the results of the assessment and measurement of the mechanical vibration carried out in accordance with Article 4 of this Directive and the potential injury arising from the work equipment in use;
- why and how to detect and report signs of injury;
- the circumstances in which workers are entitled to health surveillance;
- safe working practices.
Prevention and diagnosis
Member States shall adopt provisions to ensure the appropriate health surveillance of workers. Health surveillance shall be intended to prevent and diagnose rapidly any disorder linked with exposure to mechanical vibration. Such surveillance shall be appropriate where:
- the exposure of workers to vibration is such that a link can be established between that exposure and an identifiable illness or harmful effects on health; and
- it is probable that the illness or the effects occur in a worker's particular working conditions.
In any event, workers exposed to mechanical vibration in excess of the "action" values shall be entitled to appropriate health surveillance.
Member States shall establish arrangements to ensure that, for each worker who undergoes health surveillance, individual health records are kept. The individual worker shall, at his request, have access to the health records relating to him personally.
Where, as a result of health surveillance, a worker is found to have an identifiable disease or adverse health effect which is considered by a doctor or occupational health-care professional to be the result of exposure to mechanical vibration at work:
- the worker shall be informed of the result which relates to him personally and shall receive information and advice;
- the employer shall be informed of any significant findings from the health surveillance, taking into account any medical confidentiality;
- the employer shall review the risk assessment;
- the employer shall review the measures provided for to eliminate or reduce risks, including the possibility of assigning the worker to alternative work where there is no risk of further exposure;
- the employer shall arrange continued health surveillance and provide for a review of the health status of any other worker who has been similarly exposed.
With regard to implementation of the obligations referred to under point 8 above (workers shall not be exposed above the exposure limit value), Member States shall be entitled to make use of a maximum transitional period of five years from 6 July 2005 where work equipment is used which was given to workers before 6 July 2007 and which does not permit the exposure limit values to be respected, taking into account the latest technical advances and/or the organisational measures taken.
With regard to equipment used in the agriculture and forestry sectors, Member States shall be entitled to extend the maximum transitional period by up to four years to a total of nine years.
In the case of sea and air transport, Member States may grant derogations in duly justified circumstances with respect to whole-body vibration where, given the state of the art and the specific characteristics of workplaces, it is not possible to comply with the exposure limit value despite the technical and/or organisational measures taken.
Where the exposure of a worker to mechanical vibration is usually below the exposure "action" values but varies markedly from time to time and may occasionally exceed the exposure limit value, Member States may also grant derogations. However, the exposure value averaged over 40 hours must be less than the exposure limit value and there must be evidence to show that the risks from the pattern of exposure to the work are lower than those from exposure at the exposure limit value.
These derogations shall be granted by Member States after consultation of the two sides of industry in accordance with national laws and practice. They must be accompanied by conditions which guarantee, taking into account the special circumstances, that the resulting risks are reduced to a minimum and that the workers concerned are subject to increased health surveillance.
Every four years Member States shall forward to the Commission a list of derogations, indicating the exact reasons and circumstances which made them decide to grant the derogations.
Technical amendments to the Directive
For the purpose of adopting purely technical amendments to the Annex, the Commission shall be assisted by a committee composed of the representatives of the Member States as provided for in the Framework Directive.
Every five years, the Member States shall provide a report to the Commission on the practical implementation of this Directive. On the basis of those reports, the Commission shall carry out an overall assessment of the implementation of the Directive and shall inform the European Parliament, the Council, the Economic and Social Committee and the Advisory Committee on Safety, Hygiene and Health Protection at Work thereof.
Deadline for transposition in the Member States