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by Vapormatt
Hand arm vibration in wet blasting

Protecting workers from hand-arm vibration

A huge number of industries rely on manually operated tools that emit vibration during use. As a result of using vibrating machinery workers are sometimes at risk of being overexposed to hand-arm vibration. This guide explores the risk of hand-arm vibration in wet blasting and explains how to prevent workers from developing hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). 

What is hand-arm vibration syndrome?

Hand-arm vibration syndrome is a painful and disabling permanent health condition that is caused by prolonged exposure to vibration through the use of hand-held or hand-guided equipment that vibrates. It has previously been known in industry as vibration white finger.

There are a number of symptoms that HAVS can be identified by, this includes: tingling and numbness in the fingers; loss of strength in the hands; and fingers going white and becoming red and painful on recovery.

The damage caused by HAVS can’t be underestimated. This damage can be measured in not only a physical sense but also psychological and in terms of career prospects. Those that do develop HAVS can struggle to complete certain tasks, ultimately leading to them being unable to continue in their current employment capacity.

The regulations

The Control of Vibration at Work Regulations 2005 (the Vibration Regulations) came into force in 2005 with the purpose of protecting workers that operate vibrating machinery from the adverse effects of vibration.

The Vibration Regulations require employers to:

-        Control the risks from vibration

-        Provide employees with information, instruction and training on the risk and the actions being taken to control risk

-        Provide employees with suitable health surveillance. 

As part of the regulations, the exposure limit and action level for HAVS and are outlined. These are:

-        The maximum level of vibration that an employee can be exposed to per day is 5 m/s2 A(8).

-        The daily exposure action value is 2.5 m/s2 A(8). No control measures are required when an operator experiences vibration below this level. 

How can HAVS occur from wet blasting?

Modern wet blast machinery can and should be designed so that there is no risk of a worker developing HAVS. However, through not following guidelines and safety advice there have been examples of HAVS developing in employees, just as it does in other surface treatment and finishing techniques where machinery is incorrectly used. 

In wet blasting, a small part is often (incorrectly) held with one hand while the other hand operates a wet blasting gun that blasts the part. The issue, which many employers fail to recognise, is not so much the vibration emitted from the wet blasting gun, but instead the vibration from the part being wet blasted, which is absorbed by the hand holding it. In fact, new wet blasting technology complies with vibration regulation, but poor practice and incorrect use leads to overexposure to vibration and the resulting development of HAVS.

How can employers protect employees?

Although the Vibration Regulations provide valuable general guidelines and highlight the importance of protecting employees from risks to health from vibration, they do not outline specific methods that can help ensure HAVS is prevented. However, there are a number of options that should be considered that can ensure the Vibration Regulations are complied with and employees are protected. 

The first step, which is essential, is to conduct a risk assessment for all tasks in which vibrating machinery is operated, even if vibration emissions seem minimal. Once the risk assessment has been conducted and highlights the risk to an employee, employers can then set in place a set of rules for the operation of vibrating machinery. 

One such rule is to monitor and control how frequently and for how long an employee is operating the vibrating equipment. While working on a manually operated wet blasting machine may be harmless for a certain number of hours, naturally over usage for prolonged and regular periods will increase the likelihood of harm, as it would with the over usage of any vibrating machinery.

This is especially true of older manually operated equipment, which may emit a higher volume of vibration than newer counterparts. Employers are advised to identify the age of equipment as they may not be fit for purpose in terms of vibration emission, even though they complete a task perfectly adequately.

Some employers have opted to move away from manually operated wet blasting machines and are investing in automated alternatives. The Vapormatt Sabre, for example, is a fully automated wet blasting solution that not only offers exceptionally fast process times but also requires minimal interaction with employees – who are therefore at no risk of developing HAVS. However, for those employers that do not require the fully automated version, they can instead utilise jigs, which hold parts in place for the wet blasting process. This means employees are only exposed to the controlled vibration from the wet blasting gun.

How can employees further protect themselves?

In the past there has been great emphasis placed on the importance of personal protective equipment (PPE) for preventing the negative effects of vibration, such as anti-vibration gloves. However, the true effectiveness of PPE in protecting workers from vibration is not clear, which is why employees are advised not to rely on PPE. Instead, employees must protect themselves in other ways, such as: ensuring they are not operating vibrating equipment for long periods; holding vibrating equipment as loosely as possible; paying attention to machine safety messages – for example, many wet blasting machines feature cautionary messages that draw attention to vibration exposure -; and raising issues with supervisors if they have any concerns.

One important factor for employees to bear in mind is that although it is relatively easy to measure the vibration emissions of a machine, it is notoriously difficult to reliably measure the amount of that vibration has been absorbed by a person’s hand. For example, an employee who holds a part tightly will absorb more vibration than an employee who holds the same part loosely; so despite the part emitting the same level of vibration, the two employees would not absorb the same amount of vibration.


Hand-arm vibration may not be at the top of the list of priorities for employers, but with the threat of employees developing HAVS and having the legal right to claim compensation it is in the best interest of all parties that employees are protected. The best way to do this is by conducting an in-depth risk assessment and introducing measures that comply with regulations and prevent over-exposure to vibration.

If you have any questions or concerns about HAVs please contact us today.


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Syntech Surface Finishing specialists which has been in operation since the mid 1970’s and has well over thirty years experience in the Surface Finishing equipment and consumable market.



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亞盛精密机械有限公司 (英文名 Asia Consult Corporation) 于2001年创建。     我们专注于特定细分市场的专业客户需求,如精密数控刀具行业(涂层、湿喷砂、真空清洗设备)、电机行业(线圈加工设备)、高精密批量零

制造业(专用机床等)等,在这些行业与多家世界顶尖机床设备厂家紧密合作, 负责这些设备中国市场的销售及售后服务工作。

我们在中国上海及瑞士设有办事处,同时在上海的保税仓库有常用的设备备件。   我们的技术服务人员随时应答客户的要求,第一时间到达客户现场解决问题。

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Czech Republic

IPP Praha se již více než 20 let specializuje na dodávky špičkových zařízení a technologií pro povrchové úpravy a čištění kovových dílů a forem.Kromě zařízení pro mokré tryskání Vapormatt  máme pro každý obor  zastoupení prvotřídních západoevropských firem  s rozsáhlými referencemi  v celé Evropě vč. ČR. Dodávaná zařízení zahrnují prakticky všechny velikosti od malých van a kabin, až po rozsáhlé plně automatické linky vč. ultrazvukových a galvanických nebo myčky velkorozměrných dílů (např. železniční soukolí).V případě zájmu nás kontaktujte, k zařízením zajišťujeme též servis a náhradní díly



Après une expérience commerciale dans les fixations automobiles, j'ai découvert l'orthopédie par la forge des tiges de hanches, puis la fonderie, l'usinage, les traitements de surface (DLC, TiN, macro-poreux à base de billes), les emballages, l'injection plastique, le polissage et le nettoyage, la céramique, le Peek et les matériaux résorbables ...Ces expériences de plusieurs années complétées par des formations techniques spécialisées en métallurgie, en plasturgie mais aussi en qualité, en réglementation ou en microbiologie m'ont donné une bonne vision du secteur et de ses problématiques.Aujourd'hui, je représente des technologies européennes de fabrication d'implants et de matériaux implantables à des prix compétitifs face aux leaders monopolistiques du marché.



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I.M.U.-International Macchine Utensili S.p.A. , fondata nel 1963, si compone di 2 Divisioni:

Macchine Utensili

  • Utensili& Trattamenti Superficiali

Grazie alla lunga partnership con Vapormatt ed oltre 30 anni di esperienza nella sabbiatura ad umido, I.M.U.  è a disposizione del mercato italiano per esaminare e risolvere  problemi relativi al trattamento superficiale dei metalli mediante  sabbiatura ad umido, tecnologia ecologica ante-litteram e tuttora moderna. 

New Zealand

Syntech Surface Finishing specialists is a wholly owned New Zealand company which has been in operation since the mid 1970’s and has well over thirty years experience in the Surface Finishing equipment and consumable market.



Vapormatt have been active in Singapore for many years. We have now established 2 agencies to handle the different types of industries.

South Korea

Vapormatt는 전 세계 최고의 습식 블라스팅(Wet blasting) 장비 회사입니다.

항공부품, 알루미늄 압출 다이, 커팅 툴과 전선등의 세척 및 표면 처리 분야에 널리 쓰일수 있습니다.

Vapormatt의 솔루션을 통해 초정밀 가공분야의 핵심인 표면처리 공정의 최적화를 이룰 수 있습니다.

하이클라쎄테크닉은 Vapormatt의 한국 파트너로서 귀사의 표면 처리 공정에 도움을 드릴 수 있습니다.

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Reservdelar (utom blästermedel) till Vapormatt maskiner i Sverige levereras av Scandinavian Aerospace & Ind AB.






Unser Tätigkeitsbereich umfasst die Behandlung von Oberflächen, Teilereinigung, sowie die Flüssigkeits-Filtrierung, dies seit über 20 Jahren.

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In the UK Vapormatt currently have 3 sites covering a range of activities.

  1. Headquarterd in Taunton this office deals with all sales, manufacturing, aftersales and account queries. 
  2. The Gloucester site offers sub-contract wet blasting and process development.
  3. All research and development is carried out in Guernsey