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NIOSH investigates whole-body vibration hazards

Strategies for reducing whole-body vibration in golf maintenance tasks

Posted March 31, 2023

Strategies for reducing whole-body vibration in golf course maintenance tasks is covered in a newly released NIOSH health hazard evaluation report (HHE Report No. 2018-0137-3385). Golf course management requested an evaluation after workers reported pain and discomfort in their lower backs, shoulders, neck, and knees.

Investigators observed work processes, work practices, and workplace conditions; measured golf course maintenance employees’ exposures to whole-body vibration during two shifts; and conducted confidential interviews with employees during their visit.

The investigation found that whole-body vibration exposures for most job tasks exceeded occupational action levels. Tasks include:

  • The whole-body vibration crest factor ratios for the job tasks measured ranged from 12–34. Crest factor ratios greater than 9 are considered to have high impulsivity and are potentially more harmful.
  • Every job task measured, except mowing the fairway, had whole-body vibration amounts that were above recommended action levels.
  • Driving a golf cart on a paved golf path was above the recommended exposure limit value of 17 m/s1.75 during the sampling period.
  • Operating the top dress and Tycrop equipment for a combined total of 7 hours put the operator at the recommended exposure limit.

The report makes recommendations to reduce exposure to whole-body vibration and encourage workers to report health concerns they think are work-related. Recommendations include:

  • Avoid driving on areas of the golf course known to be rough and uneven and reducing these areas through maintenance or replacement;
  • Reduce driving speeds;
  • Replace seats with original equipment;
  • Establish a schedule that rotates employees between tasks;
  • Establish a symptom reporting procedure so that information about reported health concerns can be documented; and
  • Encourage employees with health concerns to get an evaluation from healthcare provider familiar with the types of exposures employees have and their health effects.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide a safe workplace. NIOSH investigators encouraged the company to use a health and safety committee to discuss recommendations and develop an action plan.

This article was written by Carmen King of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

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