Standards and Guidelines for Whole Body Vibration and the Protection of Human Health

Often thought of as a problem only for industrial occupations that involve heavy machinery, the concept of whole body vibration is actually something that affects every single person, no matter what their line of work is. When you drive to and from your job, you are exposed to vibration in your vehicle. It is not the kind of vibration that is always the reason there are problems but the cumulative effect of the vibration that makes it a danger. The more vibration you are exposed to, the more likely you are to have some kind of damage or injury whether it is minor and short term or more disabling and long term.

Whole Body Vibration and Occupational Issues

A lack of both awareness and education about the topic is one of the major problems with vibration and vibration control. In a survey of industrial managers and others in a supervisory role, less than 70 percent had any idea of what whole body vibration even was and why it could be so dangerous. But the condition is one of the most serious causes of lost time from work, usually due to injuries including lower back pain. Of the nearly ten million people who deal with the effects of occupational vibration, the majority end up with injuries that include degenerative disc disease.

There are a number of people who need to be concerned with vibration damping, especially for their workers who are using heavy machinery and those who spend long hours on their feet near machines or behind the wheel of a vehicle.

It is not just a matter of comfort or productivity, however. Whole body vibration can increase the risk factors for industrial accidents substantially. Vibration dampers must be designed so that they can break occupational or industrial vibration down to a more comfortable, tolerable level. The three most important reasons to limit this exposure include: the comfort boundary, the fatigue/decreased proficiency boundary and the exposure limit.

For every hour that the body is exposed to excessive vibration, it accumulates damages whether they are an active participant in the vibration causing action or they are a passive passenger. For instance, a person traveling in a car, bus or train is exposed to high levels of vibration that can reach limits that make it difficult for them to eat, read or write in comfort. The vibrations caused by the vehicle or machinery cause reactions from the muscles, which in turn leads to an increase in fatigue and a converse decrease in concentration. That can then cause the person to lose focus and make a mistake in the task they are trying to perform or may cause them to have an accident of some kind. In other situations, that loss of concentration and focus may put other people at serious risk of injury as well.

Once fatigue has reached its critical limit, the body might start shutting down non-vital functions, which can also cause the person to become weakened, dizzy or even cause them to faint. Fatigued drivers account for as many accidents on the road as those who have been drinking or using drugs.

The effects of vibration can be felt differently, depending on where it is initiated or introduced to the body. Handheld tools introduce vibration through the hands. You feel it first in your feet when standing and through the buttocks when sitting. But, that does not mean that the full impact of the vibration will be focused on those areas. In some cases, the vibration may affect weakened areas of the body first, causing some conditions to become worse.

Vibration Dampers and How Sorbothane® Can Solve Your Problems

A vibration damper is one that decreases some of the vibration effect by changing how fast or slow energy oscillates from point A to point B. By absorbing some of the energy that has been generated, it lessens any impact or damage it might have caused. Certain materials, such as a viscous, oily liquid, will slow the energy down too much, while another, such as a solid, might not slow it down enough.

An elastic material might actually increase the amount of the expended energy as well. Sorbothane is not one of these properties but rather a blend, which allows it to flow freely like a liquid but still provide smoothness like a solid. Able to be poured, molded or cut to various designs and specifications, there are thousands of applications currently using Sorbothane for vibration damping and other uses as well. If the right item is not listed on the current catalog of parts, then it can be created for you by a designer. Custom parts are something that Sorbothane was created for and can be as simple as changing the thickness or color of something that already exists or can be something more complex such as a specific solution for your own unique need.

Some of the applications that might be suggested include sheets of Sorbothane that can be used in vehicle seats, from personal cars to heavy machinery of all kinds. There are also parts for small, hand held tools and other standard or custom parts that make vibration less of a worrisome issue. For tools, there are gloves and compression wraps for the handles both meant to minimize the effects of vibration on the user and minimize fatigue. There are also simple solutions such as shoe insoles that are protective for the workers who are constantly on their feet on hard, industrial floors all day long.

Contact a designer who can help you find the right solution for your vibration damper needs and learn more about our custom solutions for engineers here. You can also view the listing of standard parts and learn more about how Sorbothane has the perfect solution for you.