The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has published new guidance on hand-arm vibration in “amenity” horticulture, ie growing plants for recreational or ornamental purposes, and how to control the associated risks.

The guidance is aimed at employers in amenity horticulture and explains how to protect workers by managing and controlling the risks related to exposure to hand-arm vibration.

Hand-arm vibration is vibration transmitted into workers’ hands and arms, for example by hand-held and guided power tools, such as hedge trimmers and powered mowers.

Regular and frequent exposure to hand-arm vibration can lead to permanent ill health. The two main health conditions associated with hand-arm vibration exposure are hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Signs and symptoms of HAVS include:

  • tingling and numbness in the fingers which can result in an inability to do fine work or everyday tasks such as fastening buttons

  • loss of strength in the hands which might affect the ability to work safely

  • fingers going white (blanching) and then becoming red and painful on recovery, reducing the ability to work in cold or damp conditions, for example outdoors.

Symptoms and effects of CTS can also occur and include tingling, numbness, pain and weakness in the hands which can interfere with work and everyday tasks and might affect the ability to work safely.

Symptoms of both conditions may come and go but with continued exposure to vibration they may become prolonged or permanent and cause pain, distress and sleep disturbance. This can happen after only a few months of exposure, but more typically it will happen over a few years.

The guidance will help employers:

  • identify when exposure may cause harm

  • understand how to comply with the Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005

  • take practical steps to control the vibration risk.

Hand-arm vibration in amenity horticulture and how to control the risk (INDG480) is available through the HSE’s website.

Last reviewed 10 July 2019