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Shake, Rattle N Roll:A Workplace Hazard?


The field of occupational safety and health is constantly evolving, with new regulations always on the horizon. When in comes to ergonomics and its wide

NEAL LORENZI

The field of occupational safety and health is constantly evolving, with new regulations always on the horizon. When in comes to ergonomics and its wide ranging effects on the workplace, the interaction between industry and government can be touchy and open to interpretation.

This thought came to mind during ConExpo ë08 when I visited the booth of Grammer Inc., Hudson, Wisc., and learned about EU (European Union) Directive 2002/44/EC. Established in March 2007, the new directive is designed to protect workers from whole-body vibration (WBV) wherever vibrating tools and machines are used. Remember that acronym (WBV). It may impact U.S. aggregate producers in the near future.

The EC directive establishes ìexposure action valuesî and ìexposure limit valuesî for whole-body and hand-arm vibrations. The exposure action value for hand-arm vibrations is reached when a worker is subjected to 2.5 m/s2 at any time during the course of a day. The limits for whole-body vibrations are 1.15 m/s2 horizontally and 0.8 m/s2 vertically. As soon as these limits are reached, appropriate protection must be provided.

In the aggregate industry, truck drivers, drillers, crusher operators and those who work in screening plants are potentially subject to whole- body and/or hand-arm vibration exposure. That is why Grammer Inc. was exhibiting its new vibration monitor at ConExpo. The device, which attaches to a driver's seat, continuously records vibrations during an eight-hour shift, calculates exposure values and alerts the operator if permissible levels are exceeded.

Wiebke Froehner, vice president of marketing and communications for Grammer AG, the parent company located in Germany, believes that EU Directive 2002/44/EC will be adopted by U.S. regulatory agencies within the next three years. ìAggregate operations are a prime target because exposure limits often are exceeded in this industry.î According to Froehner, adjusting seat suspension is required to reduce vibrations.

On this side of the pond, James Sharpe, author of Rock Products monthly ìHealthy Dialogueî column, doesn't see the EU standard as having much impact here in the states. The reason: the EU generally has safety and health standards more stringent than ours, and most of these standards have not made their way across the ocean.

ìHowever, that is not to say times won't change as globalization increasingly takes hold, and international companies seek to standardize their operations worldwide,î Sharpe notes. ìEuropean-based firms such as Oldcastle, Heidelberg and Lafarge would thus lead the way in any such change.î


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