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8 November 2006 PR 06/127

Loughborough University joins forces with hire companies to tackle hand-arm vibration syndrome

Concerns raised by Loughborough University about the growing problem of hand-arm vibration syndrome in the construction industry has led to the formation of a new national industry body.

The Major Hire Companies Group (MHCG) has been launched following calls from the University’s Dr David Edwards. Dr Edwards, a leading expert in hand-arm vibration syndrome, felt that more needed to be done to ensure the health, safety and welfare of thousands of manual workers.

The role of the newly formed MHCG is to agree and publish guidance on minimising workers’ exposure to vibration from hand-operated equipment. Members of the MHCG include: A-Plant, Brandon Tool Hire, GAP, Hewden, Hire Station, HSS, Martin Plant Hire, and Speedy Hire. Several additional equipment hire and lease companies have also indicated an interest in joining the group.

Mick Norton, current Off-highway Plant and Equipment Research Centre (OPERC) President and spokesman for the MHCG, commented: “The group will work towards creating a safer system of work for our customers and all hire companies will be able to share in the results and findings once our guidance is published.

“Our first step is to establish a standard system for measuring an operator’s exposure to hand-arm vibration, when operating hand-held or hand-guided power tools. The system must be easy to both apply and manage for anyone within the supply chain, whether they are manufacturers, hire companies or end-users. However, we will not focus solely upon analysis and standards. Training guidance and other resources are equally important and once produced, these should also be freely available for all since the protection of people is the driving force behind this initiative.”

Dr Edwards, who is based in Loughborough University’s Department of Civil and Building Engineering, said: “Research work can sometimes lack real impact from a practical perspective; and so it is most encouraging to witness industry actively working in partnership with the University in this way, on a real-life scientific problem. This is an issue that can best be resolved through such an industrial-academic partnership and reflects Loughborough’s historically strong track record for tackling these types of issues.

“We have a great opportunity here to make a real difference to the health, safety and welfare of thousands of manual workers, so understandably, this is a very exciting and much welcomed development in the Department’s research in this field.”

Dr Edwards added that it is not the ambition of the MHCG to compete with other trade associations or detract, in any way, from the good work already undertaken by other industry groups. The MHCG wants to make a positive contribution to the ongoing work in this area.

During its first meeting in October, MHCG members agreed that all equipment manufacturers should have their tools independently tested and that such data should be made available to industry, free of charge. The MHCG also agreed to share information or best practice documentation produced by the group to any interested party. A new guidance document has been commissioned and will be produced in collaboration between the MHCG, OPERC and Loughborough University.

Future challenges for the group include tackling complex issues relating to hand-arm vibration training and education; optimising the publication of vibration data; maximising dissemination of vibration research findings throughout the hire industry; and applying the use of innovative technologies to mitigate the risks associated with using power tools.


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Notes to editors

  1. Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

    In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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