Posted on: July 21, 2016
A simple way to cope with mobile plant and tools.
A question about a common problem that came up when giving a presentation at a recent IOSH meeting has a really simple answer. What struck me was the enthusiasm for a solution that we developed and been advocating as best practice for years in our training courses. Whilst the talk was on noise and noise control, the approach is equally applicable to Hand-Arm Vibration – in fact, combining the two (where appropriate) saves resources.
Q: “How do you assess noise risks from mobile plant in practice when tools and locations change all the time?”
A: “Put labels on the plant showing the distance within which PPE is mandatory.”PPE hearing protection advice
The very mobility and variations in the tools or mobile plant in factories or on construction sites, at first glance would seem to make it difficult to manage and police likely exposures. For noise, the risks for a “quiet” operator may suddenly escalate when a jack hammer starts up nearby. For HAVS, the degree of risk from a particular tool use may not be obvious (unless you can do the calculation in your head).
Combining Noise and HAV Data
We advocate creating a spreadsheet database of the items of plant which lists noise levels at the ear and also calculates the “safe” working distance within which PPE is mandatory i.e. the distance at which the noise falls to below 85dB(A). This figure should be calculated for the worst case i.e. when there are reflecting surfaces nearby (which can increase the local noise level by several dB). The same spreadsheet should also include the levels of vibration (where appropriate) and the calculated “safe” working time to reach the Exposure Limit Value (ELV) of 5m^2 (single tool use finger-on-trigger time).
Print labels for the plant and tools. To check risk management on site, you don’t need a sound level meter or a HAV exposure calculator, you just look at the stickers. A glance at a tool label not only tells you how risky the noise is (it also informs the operator – very simply and with no noise knowledge required), but also who should be wearing PPE. The HAVS version is a very simple way to inform about relative risk (albeit, for single tool use) and is the basis for questions for operators about how long they have been using the tools.
Not perfect, but very simple and very effective…
We have a huge database of both noise and HAV data for mobile plant and tools that we use to implement this approach - HAVBase and Noisebase. The latter automatically calculates the safe working distance for use on your plant.
Contact us for instant virtual noise and HAV assessment by email or to discuss the practicalities.