2020 Volume 58 Issue 6 Pages 539-553
Maintenance-of-way workers in North America who construct railroad tracks utilize specialized powered-hand tools, which lead to hand-transmitted vibration exposure. In this study, the maintenance-of-way workers were surveyed about neuro-musculoskeletal disorders, powered-hand tools and work practices. Information about vibration emission data of trade specific powered-hand tools for the North American and European Union markets was searched online to obtain respective user information of manufacturer and compared to non-commercial international data banks. The survey showed that maintenance-of-way workers frequently reported typical hand-transmitted vibration-related symptoms, and appear to be at a risk for neuro-musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremity. Of all of the powered-hand tools used by this trade, 88% of the selected tools exceeded a=5 m/s2 and were above vibration magnitudes of common tools of other comparable industries. This may create a risk if these tools are used throughout an 8-h work day and management of vibration exposure may be needed. In the North-American market, limited or no vibration emission data is available from manufacturers or distributors. Vibration emission information for powered-hand tools, including vibration emission levels (in m/s2), uncertainty factor K, and the applied testing standard/norm may assist employers, users and occupational health providers to better assess, compare and manage risk.