Exposure to Hand-Arm Vibration in the Australian Workforce

Kate Lewkowski, Elinor Ytterstad, Matthew J. Pugliese, Kahlia McCausland, Jane Heyworth, Ian Li, Hans Pettersson, Warwick Williams, Lin Fritschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objective
To estimate the prevalence of hand-arm vibration (HAV) in Australian workplaces.

Methods
The Australian Workplace Exposure Survey (AWES)—Hearing was a cross-sectional telephone survey of Australian workers conducted in 2016–2017. Respondents were asked about the time spent using tools or performing tasks known to be associated with HAV during their most recent working day. We created a library of HAV magnitude levels for each tool/task and estimated each worker’s daily HAV exposure level using standard formulae. We categorized each worker as to whether they exceeded the daily occupational limits of 2.5 and 5.0 m/s2. Results were extrapolated to the Australian working population using a raked weighting method.

Results
In our sample of 4991 workers, 5.4% of men and 0.7% of women exceeded the HAV action limit of 2.5 m/s2 on their most recent working day. We estimate that 3.8% of the Australian workforce exceeds the HAV limit of 2.5 m/s2 and 0.8% exceeds the 5 m/s2 limit. Men were more likely to exceed the HAV limits than women, as were those with trade qualifications, and those who worked in remote locations. Workers in the construction, farming, and automobile industries had the highest prevalence of HAV exposure. Tool groups that contributed to higher exposure levels included: compactors, rollers, and tampers; power hammers and jackhammers; and underground mining equipment.

Conclusions
HAV is common in the Australian working population. Given the health risks associated with this exposure, reduction strategies and interventions should be developed, with engineering controls as the starting point for exposure reduction strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 May 2021

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