‘Whole body vibration’ – a quick look at the potential impact

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Posted 05/02/2013

Most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘whiplash’ as a nasty side-effect of many road traffic incidents. Many in the construction industry will be familiar with ‘vibration white finger’ (VWF), an injury most commonly seen among people who use hand held power tools on a regular basis over a prolonged period. Now we are increasingly hearing about ‘whole body vibration’ (WBV), particularly in the context of those who spend a lot of time on boats.So, what is it … and how might it affect boat owners and their passengers?The Health & Safety Executive definition of WBV is “the shaking or jolting of the human body through a supporting surface, usually a seat or floor. The risk from vibration is related to the overall time the operator or driver is exposed to the vibration and the number of shocks and jolts they experience each day”.Experts will generally say that boating injuries are more about ‘impact’ than ‘vibration’. The most serious injuries result from bad ‘slamming’ events, whereas lower-impact vibration injuries would develop over a period of time and are more likely to result in disc or cartilage damage. When it comes to preventing either of these types of injury, there are a whole host of different factors in play, ranging from legal requirements through to boating skills, the weather and the type of vessel. Richard Foyster, a personal injury solicitor at Ashtons Legal, comments:“We are expecting to hear more about these types of boating injury in the future. There is an increasing belief that impact and vibration exposure pose a health risk to both marine crew and passengers and that laws designed to protect them are not always being followed. In fact, an EU Directive which sets guidelines for impact exposure is so strict that a recent article in ‘Powerboat & RIB Magazine’ reported that “they are normally exceeded within minutes on an 8-10m boat, doing 35 knots in 0.7m waves”. Traditionally personal injury claims relating to boats were either people suffering ‘trip and slip’ type accidents on cruise liners, or workers who had been exposed to asbestos dust while building or re-fitting ships and went on to suffer asbestos-related disease many years later. Over the next few years it seems likely that WBV will become a much more likely cause for a claim.”Awareness of the dangers of ‘slamming’ fast boats is improving, following publicity surrounding both boat owners and passengers who have been hurt in these incidents.


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