Recent press coverage on the impending expiry of the agriculture/forestry exemption from the Control of Vibrations at Work Regulations 2005 has suggested that routine farm work involving tractor work or use of ATVs could fall foul of limits set in the regulations after they are applied to agriculture and forestry from July 2014.
However, a statement from the Health & Safety Executive’s Chief Inspector for Agriculture has attempted to pour oil on troubled waters. In it Graeme Walker states “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”. He goes on to say “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.”
Many older machines will have been replaced since the Regulations were first developed and more modern machines will incorporate improved suspension and other features which greatly reduce the vibration experienced by farm workers. Employers should however be aware of the guidance and take practical steps to reduce vibration impact on employees.
For the HSE statement see http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/record/2013/wbv-agriculture210813.htm
For the HSE Guidance see http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/ais20.pdf