Vibration-induced disorders, such as work-related Reynaud’s disease, are serious and potentially disabling. They may result in loss of feeling and interfere with one’s ability to work. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has long sought strategies to prevent vibration-induced disorders. In 1983 the Institute published a Criteria Document describing the risk of vibration syndrome from the use of hand-held machinery. Since that time the body of knowledge in this field has continued to expand.
Vibrations caused by power tools, machinery, vehicles, and heavy equipment are a ubiquitous feature of modern work environments. In the U.S., an estimated six million workers are in occupations exposed to whole-body vibration and more than one million workers are in occupations exposed to hand-transmitted vibration (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004).
Since Alice Hamilton's seminal report in 1918 on vibration-induced hand disorders in quarry stonecutters, the potential health risks associated with prolonged and repeated vibration exposure have been well recognized and documented. Efforts to understand the exposure risk factors and adverse health effects of occupational vibration exposure have waxed and waned over the years.
Despite numerous studies and technological advances in vibration measurement and control, the exposure risks and etiology of the adverse health effects are not well understood. Human exposure to vibration remains a major risk factor associated with vascular, neural, and musculoskeletal disorders.
In June 2006 the First American Conference on Human Vibration was held in Morgantown, West Virginia. The meeting showcased the most recent research regarding the physiological effects of vibration. It explored the etiology of vibration-induced disorders and illuminated opportunities for their diagnoses, treatment, and prevention.
Source: OSHA newsletter