A Whole Lot of Shaking


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INDUSTRIAL ENGINEER – Volume 43 Number 6

Reducing vibrations from power tools can prevent loss of dexterity, feeling

Tingling hands caused by motor vibrations come standard for those who regularly use handheld power tools, including people in mining, forestry, manufacturing and services.

Prolonged exposure to such intensive vibrations can cause hand-arm vibration syndrome, said Subhash Rakheja, a professor in Concordia University’s Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering.

“Over time, some workers can lose sensation in their hands or loss of dexterity, they can no longer distinguish between hot or cold surfaces, or they can experience discoloration in the extremities of their fingers, which is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon,” he said.

While long studied in Europe, examining work-vibrations exposure is relatively new in North America. Rakheja has published widely on the subject. He recently studied soil compactors, which are staples of construction sites. According to the research, a simple seat upgrade could reduce exposure to vibrations by 60 percents.

The work of Rakheja and collaborators has helped lead to ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards for whole body vibration (ISO 5982) and for hand-arm vibration (ISO 10068). They are now investigating a world standard for anti-vibration gloves.

Rakheja is also examining how to reduce the impact of industrial power tools that can lead to vascular and skeletal disorder. “The most risky tool to use for worker is the jackhammer. It’s like a loaded gun,” he said.