Factors affecting operator exposure to whole-body vibration


Wesley Killen and Tammy Eger

Key messages

  • Evidence continues to support the association between prolonged whole-body vibration exposure and an increased risk for lower-back disorders in motorized-vehicle operators.
  • Seat performance, road conditions, and driving speeds influence whole-body vibration exposure.
  • The first line of prevention is purchasers consulting with manufacturers to select equipment with the lowest vibration emission values based on proper seat installation and suspension systems.
  • Best practices to limit a worker’s risk of developing a low-back disorder include: purchase vehicles with lower vibration exposure emissions; maintain vehicles and roadways; consider a reduction in operating speeds where feasible; maintain a neutral trunk and neck posture, with the back supported when driving; avoid lifting or heavy physical work immediately after driving and consider a reduction in daily driving time.

Implications for the prevention of MSD

Long term exposure to whole-body vibration puts workers at an increased risk for low-back and neck disorders. The hierarchy of controls should be followed to mitigate injury risk.  Equipment with lower vibration emissions should be purchased, vehicles and roadways should be maintained, lower driving speeds should be considered, neutral driving postures should be adopted, and heavy physical work should be avoided immediately after exposure to WBV.

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CRE-MSD Position Paper (2 page PDF)