More stringent rules for vibrating tools

Vibration injuries are one of the most common occupational risks in Sweden with around 200 cases a year, according to Afa Försäkring. The rules for vibrating tools are now being updated and from 1 January 2027 manufacturers must indicate the level of impact vibrations their tools generate.

Working with hand-held, vibrating tools can badly affect the body and lead to various types of injury, especially to the nervous system and blood vessels. To prevent injury, there is a limit that takes into account how much the tool vibrates and for how long it is used. However, there are no regulations concerning the impact vibrations that occur with certain tools, such as nut drivers. Impact vibrations occur, for example, when the piston of an impact tool hits the drill or chisel. These impacts often have a very high level and contain high frequencies.

“One of the reasons why there are no regulations for impact vibrations is that there was no way to measure them,” says Hans Lindell, a vibration researcher at Rise who is leading international work on developing ISO standards for impact vibrations. “But intensive work is underway to develop a measurement method to quantify this and we are now close to solving it.”

It damages the nerves in your fingers, just under the skin. You may experience tingling, numbness or loss of sensation.

There was a week-long international conference on vibration issues in France in June this year, where the standards applied in this area were discussed. The Machinery Ordinance is expected to enter into force in July, and after that date tool manufacturers will have 42 months to make any changes to their production and label their tools. From 1 January 2027, all vibrating tools must indicate the level of vibration.

“The international standard is the first stage and then it is probably copied to CEN at the European level before becoming the basis for an EU regulation. That’s the usual procedure. All products sold on the European market must have a CE label, which shows that the product meets all the requirements set by the EU,” explains Hans Lindell.

Hand-held tools that vibrate can lead to various types of injuries. Most often mentioned are white fingers, where the muscles around blood vessels contract, resulting in white fingers. High-frequency vibrations mainly affect the superficial nerves in hands.

“It damages the nerves in your fingers, just under the skin. You may experience tingling, numbness or loss of sensation. Doctors usually say that the fingers go blind. When you put your hand in your pocket, for example, you can feel what’s there, such as keys, but if you have superficial nerve damage you lose this sensation in your fingers. You may also find it difficult to feel differences in temperature,” says Hans Lindell.  

He believes that the new regulation will have an effect on people working with these tools. 

“I think this will make a huge difference to users. It is possible to reduce impact in the design stage, but also by using thick gloves or wrapping the handles of the tools. Very probably, there will be recommendations or limits for shock vibrations in the future, but we are not there yet.”

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