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24 June 2005. Mark Dorne of Frazer-Nash Consultancy told BATTLESPACE Editor Julian Nettlefold on the opening day of DVD 05 that because of new regulations the Ministry of Defence needs to implement the Vibration at Work Regulations which come into force next week. The MoD may still risk leaving itself open to potentially millions of pounds in compensation claims,” he said.

Armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) traversing rough ground are unlikely to meet the vibration limits set in the European Physical Agents Directive that are aimed at preventing long-term back pain and other problems.

The MoD does not have a blanket exemption for these regulations and according to Dorne, it is struggling to accurately quantify the risk to operatives:

“This is a very awkward situation for the MoD. It wants to apply the same protection to its personnel as is demanded of all other employers, but the very nature of its work makes this almost impossible.”

“Even given an Exemption from meeting the vibration limits, the MoD must still carry out risk assessments to determine the exposure levels and the risks to health that result. The problem here is that parts of the regulations are largely based around ‘comfort levels’, with little in the way of well defined relationships between exposure to high amplitude vibration and adverse health effects.”

Frazer-Nash is leading the industry in spine modelling research to develop a system which can accurately assess the risk to the spine from whole-body vibration and repeated shock. This capability will provide objective and scientific-based evidence on the effect of vibration on the spine.

“Our previous modelling work has been conducted for the RNLI, who have an analogous problem to the MoD,” he continued, but he warns that more research is needed:

“We have already developed a sophisticated modelling tool which can assess how the spine reacts to high levels of vibration and sudden impacts. But it needs more research before its use can be fully exploited.”

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations enact the European Physical Agents Directive on vibration and will for the first time place limits on the exposure of employees to whole body and hand/arm vibration. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations will enact the Physical Agents Directive on noise and are due to come into force by February 2006.

Up to two million people in Britain are exposed to potentially harmful levels of vibration which can lead to conditions such as vibration white finger (VWF) and vibration-related carpel tunnel syndrome. The courts have awarded large amounts of compensation in recent years including up to £3 billion for 165,000 ex-miners and recently £212,000 for a railway employee.

The major systems causing concern are cross-country vehicles in the ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ fleets, helicopters and some aircraft and some small warships.

In addition to vibration new noise and safety regulations will be coming in next year. This also reflects the comments made with regard to new safety rules for quad bikes in particular, now being undertaken in New Zealand and Australia.

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