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Exposure to excessive vibration can lead to injuries and diseases such as vibration white finger, Raynaud's phenomenon, and carpal tunnel syndrome. In extreme cases, these injuries and diseases can lead to permanent impairment of the hands and arms.
There are several factors that influence the risk of injury from vibration, including:
- Acceleration or intensity of the vibration
- Frequency of the vibration
- Average daily exposure
- Years of employment with exposure to vibration
- Condition of the vibrating tool
- Protective practices and equipment used (e.g., gloves, boots, work-rest periods)
- Workers’ sensitivity to vibration
Workers exposed to powered equipment with high-frequency vibration or high impact (such as chainsaws) for extended periods of time are at high risk of hand/arm vibration injuries. The adverse effect produced by exposure to vibration is called hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). Workers affected by HAVS commonly report:
- Attacks of whitening (blanching) of one or more fingers when exposed to cold
- Tingling and loss of sensation in the fingers
- Loss of light touch
- Pain and cold sensations between periodic white finger attacks
- Loss of grip strength
- Bone cysts in fingers and wrists
While chainsaws are commonly used tools in forestry, they are also one of the most hazardous pieces of equipment if they are not handled safely.
See the topic on chainsaws for more information.
Employers must take every reasonable precaution to protect the health and safety of people at their workplace. [OHS Act, S. 12 (1)(a)] This duty includes making sure that all powered equipment is used safely and that workers follow workplace safety procedures to minimize the risk of vibration-induced injury.
Employers have the responsibility to:
- Make sure that any item, device, material, equipment, or machinery provided to workers is maintained in good condition and is safe to use.
- Maintain and equip all workplace items, devices, materials, equipment, or machinery with proper safety features or devices according to the manufacturer’s recommendations or as required by the regulations.
- Make sure that workers are trained and instructed in the correct use of all safety features or devices, equipment and clothing required for their protection.
Workers must: [OHS Act, S. 16]
- Be aware of the risks of using powered equipment with high-frequency vibration or high impact for extended periods.
- Properly use and wear the required protective clothing and devices.
- Be aware of the symptoms of the HAVS.
- Report symptoms of HAVS to a supervisor and the joint occupational health and safety committee and seek medical attention as needed.
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY ACT
R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c. O-1.01
Section 12 Duties of employers
12. (1) An employer shall ensure
(a) that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect the occupational health and safety of persons at or near the workplace;
(b) that any item, device, material, equipment or machinery provided for the use of workers at a workplace is properly maintained, and is properly equipped with the safety features or devices, as recommended by the manufacturer or required by the regulations;
(c) that such information, instruction, training, supervision and facilities are provided as are necessary to ensure the occupational health and safety of the workers;
(d) that workers and supervisors are familiar with occupational health or safety hazards at the workplace;
(e) that workers are made familiar with the proper use of all safety features or devices, equipment and clothing required for their protection; and
(f) that the employer's undertaking is conducted so that workers are not exposed to occupational health or safety hazards as a result of the undertaking.
(2) An employer shall
(a) consult and cooperate with the joint occupational health and safety committee or the representative, as applicable;
(b) cooperate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations;
(c) provide such additional training of committee members as may be prescribed by the regulations;
(d) comply with this Act and the regulations and ensure that workers at the workplace comply with this Act and the regulations; and
(e) where an occupational health and safety policy or occupational health and safety program is required under this Act, establish the policy or program.
(3) An employer shall establish and implement as a policy, in accordance with the regulations, measures to prevent and investigate occurrences of harassment in the workplace.
[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 3]
Section 16 Duties of worker
16. (1) A worker, while at work, shall
(a) take every reasonable precaution to protect the worker's own occupational health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(b) cooperate with the employer and with the other workers to protect the worker's own occupational health and safety and that of other persons at or near the workplace;
(c) wear or use such individual protective equipment as is required by this Act and the regulations;
(d) consult and cooperate with the committee or representative, if any;
(e) cooperate with any person performing a duty or exercising a power conferred by this Act or the regulations; and
(f) comply with this Act and the regulations and any policy or program established by an employer pursuant to this Act or the regulations.
(2) Where a worker believes that any item, device, material, equipment or machinery, condition or aspect of the workplace is or may be dangerous to the worker's occupational health or safety or that of other persons at or near the workplace, the worker
(a) shall immediately report it to a supervisor;
(b) shall, where the matter is not remedied to the worker's satisfaction, report it to the committee or the representative, if any; and
(c) may, where the matter is not remedied to the worker's satisfaction after the worker reports it in accordance with clauses (a) and (b), report it to an officer.
(3) Clause (2)(b) does not apply in respect of a complaint of harassment in the workplace.
[S.P.E.I. 2018, c. 45, s. 4]