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OPERC Press Release

OPERC HAV Press Release (11/11/06)

A 'Bit' of concern……
Following the release of the EU's Physical Agents Directive and the UK's Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, 2005, OPERC has noted the huge surge of interest in the vibration magnitude and productivity performance values of power tools; these are the two criteria required to measure operator exposure. Reputable manufacturers have redesigned many of their tools to be low vibration whilst maintaining high performance. Tool ergonomics too have improved considerably and professionals within the industry are more educated about the risks posed and how these can be reduced. On the OPERC/ Loughborough University's HAVTEC register over 5,400 users now regularly use real life 'independent' data measured using ISO 5349. Although this is now the most widely populated database of independent/free to use data, leading scientists within the centre are concerned that many users do not fully understand the implications of appendage choice?

Dr David Edwards, Loughborough University states that "We have to consider the tool user. A DIY person needs to operate tools safely but if they only drill one hole to hang a picture frame on a weekend, then their risk of developing HAVS is minimal. Under such circumstances, a low cost appendage will be the choice of product to purchase." He continued "However, if you are a construction contractor, who uses power tools regularly, then the choice of appendage is quintessentially important."

Research produced by HAVTEC has revealed that when a cheap drill bit (that does not conform to recognised manufacturing standards) is fitted to a high quality drill, higher vibration magnitude values are often recorded, rapid burn out of the bit can be observed, holes produced can be notably bigger than the appendage diameter and the hole itself can take longer to drill. It is no surprise therefore, that some distributors of such products either refuse to have their bits independently tested or refuse to release data once tested!

On a recent trip to the Heller Factory in Germany, a delegation of leading scientists and industry leaders observed the production of drill bits that conformed to the PGM mark. Essentially, the PGM mark ensures that the drill bits are manufactured using state-of-the-art technology and that a quality assurance system is in place during and post production. It also ensures that the cutting edge diameter and symmetry of cutting tip (in relation to the drill bit axis) and concentricity of the shaft lie within narrow specifications. Currently, the quality of the steel itself is not monitored within the PGM certificate but the whole process of certification is independent to the manufacturer thus giving greater confidence that at the very least, a minimum standard of conformance has been guaranteed.

Dr Edwards warns that "If cost is your main consideration then consider that research has shown that a cheap appendage can take twice as long to complete a task. The intangible costs of lost production, reduced safety and poor quality far and above outweigh the initial cost of a cheap product particularly for the professional construction practitioner."

Mr Barry Robinson, MBE, OPERC Chief Examiner continued "The research work into tool appendages is equally as important as the work on the tool itself. Observing, discovering and reporting upon good and bad practices alike for the benefit of all who use vibrating power tools are important aspects of HAVTEC. At our present rate, the vast majority of leading manufacturers will have been independently tested and recorded onto the HAVTEC register by the middle of 2007. This would not have been possible without the support of the Major Contractors Group and Construction Confederation."