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  Worried about the vibration exposure on operators using depressed centre grinding wheels? 3M considers the options

13  May  2014

  Vibration exposure can lead to hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), a condition that is widespread and affects tens of thousands of workers using an extensive range of hand-held power tools. HAVS affects nerves, blood vessels, muscles and joints in the hand, wrist and arm, and can become severely disabling.

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to prevent or reduce vibration exposure that produces the risk of HAVS. The Regulations set down an exposure action value (EAV), which is a daily amount of vibration exposure above which employers are required to take action. The greater the exposure level, the greater the risk and the more action employers will need to take to reduce this. For hand-arm vibration, the EAV is a daily exposure of 2.5m/s² A(8). If the EAV is likely to be exceeded, the employer must implement a programme of organisational and technical measures to reduce exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable and instigate a health surveillance programme. There is also a limit – the exposure limit value (ELV) – which is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day. For hand-arm vibration, the ELV is a daily exposure of 5m/s² A(8) and employers have a duty to ensure that employees are not exposed above this level and, if they are, take immediate action to prevent recurrence.

For workers using a depressed centre grinding wheel on an angle grinder, typical vibration levels can be between 5 and 7 m/s². This means that workers would need to be monitored for vibration-related issues if they are using a grinding wheel for two hours at the lowest end of the performance scale and just one hour at the top end. They would need to stop using the equipment after eight and four hours respectively, based on current regulations.

As well as ensuring that the required monitoring and surveillance systems are in place, it is also possible in some applications to look at alternative ways of achieving the same result. When working on an open area, without corners or edges, it is possible to use fibre discs, which produce less hand arm vibration (HAV), instead of depressed centre grinding wheels. 

Traditionally there has been a reluctance to do this because fibre discs generally do not last as long as a grinding wheel. However, Cubitron II Products offer an alternative that combines the greater longevity of the depressed centre grinding wheel with a lower EAV which typically is in the region of 3 to 4 m/s², meaning that the operator can work for three to five hours before needing to be monitored.

Cubitron II Fibre Discs 982C by 3M are available for extreme applications on mild steel. They are made with precision-shaped grain technology which delivers ultra-fast cutting points that wear evenly, run cool and maximise disc life. The grains are designed to cut through metal, instead of ploughing or gouging, so generate lower resistance and less build-up of heat. This means that Cubitron II Products can be up to twice as fast as conventional ceramic abrasive materials and can last up to five times longer. Additionally, when used with 3M ribbed high-performance pads, the vibration level and time taken to perform the task are reduced significantly, which in turn reduces the worker’s exposure to HAV.

Full details of the HSE Regulations, including an on-line hand-arm vibration exposure calculator, can be found on

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