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Workplace injury from excessive vibration may cause amputation

California workers may be exposed to some risks that are not as obvious as others. The potential workplace injury hazards of most industries are commonly associated with scaffold collapses, forklift accidents, electrical shocks and other obvious sources. However, the dangers of exposure to excessive vibration are seldom recognized.

When excessive vibration enters a worker's body, debilitating injuries can occur. The injuries could affect hands and arms and may contribute to ergonomic injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Some of the injuries may be severe enough to necessitate the amputation of the worker's fingertips. Depending on the equipment used, the vibrations may affect the whole body and may lead to pain in the lower back of a worker. These injuries are caused over time and may be latent for periods ranging from two to 17 years.

Some of the tools that are known for producing excessive vibration include impact drills, pavement breakers, chipping hammers and grinders. Operators of certain vehicles are also exposed to vibration risks, and these include paving machines, logging equipment and mining machinery, along with forklift trucks and off-road haulers. The time workers spend operating these machines should be limited.

Employers who recognize their responsibility to protect their employees from workplace injury will be cognizant of vibration risks. Risks can be reduced or eliminated altogether by ensuring well-maintained tools. However, some operations require equipment that produces high vibration levels, and operators should have frequent breaks and well-managed rotation of workers. California workers who are suffering the consequences of excessive vibration that caused a workplace injury may pursue workers' compensation benefit claims to obtain financial assistance for medical expenses and lost wages.

Source: ohsonline.com, "Vibration Hazards in the Workplace: The Basics of Risk Assessment", Rob Brauch, Feb. 1, 2015

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