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HSE responds to press reports about whole body vibration in agriculture

Date:
21 August 2013

Reports in the media have raised concerns about Control of Vibration at Work Regulations (2005), which come into force for the agricultural and forestry industries in July 2014.

HSE does not recognise the 30-minute limit on tractor use, contained in some press reports. Our own research, using machines manufactured between 2001 and 2005, shows that few on-farm activities exceed the exposure limits during an average working day.

If farmers are following the advice outlined in the long-standing HSE guidance, Whole-body vibration in agriculture, the exposure limit is not likely be reached and the regulations should not require significant changes to established working practices.

We estimate that around a fifth of older tractors will have been replaced since our research was conducted in 2005, with more modern machines incorporating improved suspension and other features that greatly reduce the vibration experienced by farm workers.

Even for those using older machines there are some simple steps that they can take to reduce vibration levels, including ensuring that vehicles – and particularly seats and suspensions – are regularly maintained. We certainly would not expect the regulations coming into force to lead farmers to replace serviceable equipment earlier than they would otherwise have wanted to.

HSE’s existing enforcement priorities for agriculture will remain as they are, and inspectors will take a commonsense and proportionate approach in dealing with farmers managing the risk of whole body vibration. We will continue to work with the agricultural industry to help farmers understand the regulations and prepare for their introduction.

Yours faithfully,

Graeme Walker,
Chief Inspector of Agriculture,
Health and Safety Executive