Legal Standards for Vibration

No Australian jurisdiction currently has specific vibration regulations. However many jurisdictions in Australia mention vibration to varying degrees in their general regulations (for example in the Plant, Noise or Manual Handling chapters), compliance codes or codes of practices and guidance material.

This differs to the situation in Europe where the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union issued a Directive in 2002 regarding the minimum health and safety requirements for workers exposed to vibration. Regulations (e.g. the United Kingdom Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005) arising from this directive were implemented in 2005.

 

However, as a hazard, vibration is covered both under the OHS Act and under Part 3.1 (Manual Handling) of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007. In addition, some of the equipment causing the problem (creating the risk) may be covered under Part 3.5 (Plant) of the regulations. Compliance Codes have not yet been produced for the regulations, but the old Codes of Practice on Manual Handling and Plant can provide some useful advice (access from this page - now used only for 'state of knowledge').

To comply with the requirements of the Manual Handling Part of the Regulations, the employer must ensure that any task undertaken, or to be undertaken, by an employee involving hazardous manual handling is identified, and the associated risks controlled at the source if possible. If the manual handling involves exposure to sustained vibration, then it is defined as being "hazardous".

Remember also that employers have a general duty under the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Act (2004) to provide and maintain for employees, as far as reasonably practicable, a working environment that is safe and without risks to health. This includes ensuring that the use, transport and handling of plant is safe and without risks to health, providing a safe system of work, information, training, supervision, and where appropriate personal protective equipment.

Further, there is an Australian Standard on this topic: AS2670 - 2001 Evaluation of human exposure to whole-body vibration.There are a number of other Australian standards on specific aspects of vibration. These can be searched and purchased from the SAI Global store website.

However, the National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance Vibration exposure and the provision of vibration control measures in Australian workplaces (the findings of which are summarised on the Effects of Vibration page) concluded:

"...it is recommended that an official investigation be undertaken on whether or not it would be beneficial for Australia to adopt the minimum health and safety requirements for vibration determined in the EU directive in regulations or codes of practice. This study could also investigate whether or not plant design standards/regulations should include specific requirements for vibration. Furthermore, Australian Standards should consider revisiting AS 2763-1988 – Vibration and Shock – Hand-transmitted vibration – Guidelines for the measurement and assessment of human exposure as it is based on the 1986 version of ISO 5349, which was revised in 2001."

In September 2012 Safe Work Australia was looking into the development of guidance and the feasibility of a model code of practice on controlling the risks of vibration at work. The report Implementation and Effectiveness of the European Directive Relating to Vibration in the workplace examines the requirements and effectiveness of the European Machinery Directive (2006/42/EC) and the Directive on Vibration (2002/44/EC) as implemented in the United Kingdom. It considers whether adoption of similar regulatory framework could be appropriate for Australia. It also provides a summary of the evidence for the health effects resulting from exposure to vibration and the  identified gaps in vibration health effects knowledge.

This report was commissioned from the UNSW, Canberra/Foster OHS to address a recommendation made in  the 2010 Safe Work Australia publication  National Hazard Exposure Worker Surveillance: Vibration exposure and the provision of vibration control measures in Australian Workplace which recommended the European Union directives related to vibration be investigated when considering future work health and safety regulatory policy development for vibration.

As a result of the report, a decision was taken to develop a code of practice. In the short term, two fact sheets were produced by Safe Work Australia in 2012:

Both fact sheets provide information on the health effects resulting from exposure to vibration from common sources in the workplace. Information is included on the levels of exposure which are known to  cause health effects, and suggested control measures which can be put in place.

Last amended June 2015

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