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Overview of Whole Body

In this Slide Show

• Definition of Whole Body Vibration (WBV)

• Ten questions about WBV, answered

Whole Body Vibration (WBV)

WBV refers to mechanical energy

oscillations which are transferred to the
body as a whole (in contrast to specific body
regions), usually through a supporting
system such as a seat or platform. Typical
exposures include driving automobiles and
trucks, and operating industrial vehicles.
Ten Questions* About Whole
Body Vibration Answered

*Adapted from the Health and Safety Executive Brochure #ISBN 07176 1314 3
What sort of vibration causes back injuries?

• Back injury can be caused by vibration from a

vehicle or machine passing through the seat into
the driver’s body through the buttocks. This is
Whole Body Vibration (WBV).

• Whole body vibration can also pass from the

platform of a vehicle or machine into the operator
through the feet.
How much exposure to whole body vibration
is likely to lead to back injury?

Regular exposure to whole-body vibration over

many months or years can lead to damage and
back pain. The longer you are exposed and the
higher the level of whole-body vibration, the
greater the chances of you suffering a back injury.

Once you begin to suffer back pain, continued

exposure to vibration is likely to make the pain
worse. Prompt action to protect workers from
vibration should stop the damage from getting
Are there any other factors involved?

Exposure to whole-body vibration is not the only cause of

backpain. Other factors which can cause or increase back pain

● poor driving posture

● poor design of controls making them difficult to operate

● poor driver visibility making twisting and stretching

necessary when driving

● other work activities that might put a strain on the back ,

for example handling and lifting heavy objects

● personal factors such as level of general fitness, being

overweight, and choice of leisure pursuits
You should look at all these factors when assessing the risk of back
to your employees.
Who is at Risk?

Among those most at risk are regular drivers of:

• construction and quarrying vehicles and machinery
• tractors and other agricultural and forestry machinery
• industrial trucks such as lift trucks and straddle carriers
• road haulage vehicles, rail vehicles, buses, etc.

Those operating large static

compaction, hammering, or punching
machinery, for example hammer mills
and mobile crushers, can also be
exposed to high levels of whole body
What should I do?

• Assess the health risks to your workers from

WBV and identify what you need to do to control
those risks.

• Ensure that the equipment you provide for your

employees has been designed or adapted to
minimize WBV.
How do I assess risk?

• You should probably assume that workers are at

risk if they regularly drive or operate vehicles and
machinery for most of the day.

• You may want to arrange for vibration levels to

be measured. This can be done by a vibration
expert or by some industrial hygienists. They
can take the measurements and make the
necessary recommendations for reducing
What can I do to reduce exposure to

• Ensure that vehicles and • If a suspension seat is fitted,

machinery are adequately ensure it is correctly adjusted to
maintained, particularly the operator’s weight according to
suspension components. the manufacturer’s instructions

• Check the driver’s seat to see • Ensure that where equipment in

that it is in good repair, and gives vehicle cabs can be adjusted, it is
good support. set to suit the size and reach of
drivers expected to use it.
• Check whether a suspension seat
is fitted suitable to the vibration • Choose the right vehicle or
characteristics of the machine machine for the ground surface
and if not, whether a suitable and task.
seat can be fitted. You may need
to talk to the machine’s • Check to see that the vehicles
manufacturer about this. have the right tires and that they
are inflated to the right pressure
for the ground surface
What can I do in the longer term?

• Introduce a policy for buying low vibration vehicles and

machinery. Many manufacturers can give you their
machinery’s vibration numbers.

• Asking manufacturers or suppliers whether they tested the

machinery in the way the employees will use it.

• Ask manufacturers or suppliers to advise you how to use

and maintain the machinery to minimize the effects of WBV
on the operators.
What training should I give employees?

Tell employees about WBV, the risk of back pain and what they can do
to prevent injury. Employees need information and training on:

– sitting and posture

– how to adjust the seat for good seating position and posture
and where a suspension seat is fitted, for the driver’s weight,
especially when different people drive the vehicle.

– identifying the vehicles or machines and work situations with

the highest levels of vibration and arranging a rotation for
operators or drivers to reduce the time spent on them by

– planning work site routes with the smoothest terrain

– if possible, improving the ground surface over which vehicles

have to be driven regularly, for example by repairing potholes,
clearing debris or leveling it out.
Is there anything else I can do?

• Encourage employees to report back discomfort

symptoms early.

• Encourage employees to seek medical advice if

they think their exposure to WBV is harming
Whole Body Vibration References & Links
Health Effects of long-term occupational exposure to
whole-body-vibration: a review, Wikstrom, B.O.,
Kjellberg, A., Landstrom, U. (1994), International
Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, 14 (4), 273-292.

Health Effects, Evaluation and Control of Whole Body Vibration

Whole Body Vibration Information for Truck Drivers (PDF)

Sources, causes and measurement of WBV

Thank you for taking the time to
learn about safety and health
and how to prevent injuries and