Vibration, Industrial Equipment and the Human Body

Big and heavy, noisy and often uncomfortable to sit in or on, industrial equipment is a necessary part of a lot of occupations. But those very machines that speed up processes that would take smaller machines months to accomplish can also take a very serious tole on the most important component; the human operator. While it is necessary to protect the internal workings of the machine from excessive vibration and the damage that it can cause, it is even more important to protect the human being that is controlling the machine.

A human sits on the seat of an industrial machine. That seat sits near the engine of the machine. The machine itself is not only doing the work it was designed to do but traveling over the ground as well. All of that adds up to a very bumpy ride, a lot of vibration and a very uncomfortable operator. It can also add up to some very serious consequences as well.

The Human Vibration Factor and Its Impact

Industrial machines are typically made of steel, rubber, some plastic and some other parts and even then are not meant to withstand nonstop vibration without some damage. That vibration, without a vibration dampener, will eventually end up causing parts to move out of place or to break. A human body, on the other hand, is not made of any of those materials. It is made of flesh, bone and blood, and excessive vibration can destroy those structures as well as cause problems with some of the delicate systems that control hearing, vision and thinking. It can also cause problems with the heart, potentially throwing it off its rhythm.

Occupational vibration, as the problem is properly called, is a major problem in the United States where between eight to ten million people have some level of the condition. This equipment vibration can lead to severe and irreversible damage in the human body in a number of ways. There are two main types of occupational vibration, whole body and segmental. For the person using the biggest of industrial machines like forklifts, earth movers and others, whole body occupational vibration is the main concern.

Six million people or more are affected by whole body occupational vibration, which in time may affect them so severely that they are no longer in control of the machine they are operating, which can put them, coworkers and the general public in grave danger. It can also cost millions of dollars in property damage as well. Another problem is continued exposure to the vibration can lead to issues such as increased pain, increased fatigue and decreased concentration, all of which are also dangerous on the work site.

Eventually, the cumulative damage of the occupational vibration will cause problems such as degenerative disc disease, which literally destroys the discs of the back and can cause severe pain upon standing, sitting or walking and may even lead to complete disability or paralysis. Surgery is frequently the only possibility for relief, and even that is not a guarantee.

How Sorbothane® Can Help with Occupational Vibration in the Industrial Setting

Again, the industrial machines are designed to do their jobs, which are often heavy, noisy and bone jarring. They were not designed with human comfort in mind. But, there are ways to minimize some of the vibration that is felt by the human operator, lessening the risk of serious, long term, physical damage. The seat that the operator is sitting on should be made of a material that has some vibration damping qualities, suppressing at least some of the exerted energy and diverting it away from the operator. There are several ways to accomplish that.

First, the material that is used can be placed between the machine and the seat itself, slowing the rate of vibration before it gets to the operator. It can be placed between the seat and the operator to minimize how much of the vibration is actually felt. Or, better yet, both can be used, greatly reducing the effects of vibration to the body.

Sorbothane, a unique polymer blend, can be custom ordered in sheet form, which is then cut to size and shape and placed appropriately to both cushion and serve as a vibration dampener for the industrial machine operator. These sheets come in three different styles – solid, dimpled or honeycombed – and several different sizes and colors. They can be cut on the job site with a razor knife, be ordered die cut or, for more complicated shapes, cut with the water jet process.

Getting the Exact Vibration Damping System You Need: Custom Ordering Sorbothane

While there are several options with these sheets, including various widths, lengths and thicknesses, sometimes the parts that are listed will not be right. If you can order a size and then cut it to fit on site, that is one option, but if you need a larger size or you need a specialized, custom cut part to fit your machinery, it is time to speak to a design consultant who can help make sure that you are getting the exact parts that you need without sacrificing performance at any level. You need to find a vibration control method that does not interfere with performance or safety while giving the maximum in comfort at the same time.

Contact our design team to discuss the options that you might consider, including your specific needs and how Sorbothane can effectively help you. You can also discuss options like the thickness of the Sorbothane sheets that are available and how to effectively adhere or affix them to the machine. Do you want to use parts that just fit under or on top of the machine’s seat? Will you be moving the sheet from machine to machine or fitting each with its own system? Are there specific conditions that you must consider with the operators of these machines?

If you have additional questions and want to learn more about Sorbothane’s solutions, contact us today to discuss how we can help you.