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European vibration proposals threaten UK quarries

NEW European proposals to reduce occupational exposure to vibration from plant and equipment will threaten the viability of many UK industries and put thousands of quarrying jobs at risk if they are adopted.

This was the stark warning from the Quarry Products Association after the European Parliament’s Social Affairs Committee voted to urge the Parliament to adopt a whole-body vibration (WBV) limit of 0.8m/s/s. This limit aims to reduce workers’ daily exposure to excessive vibration from a range of plant and equipment such as bulldozers, excavators, dumptrucks and wheel loaders, as well as on-highway vehicles such as tippers and truckmixers.

At present, the UK Government supports the European Parliament’s existing position which includes a WBV limit of 1.15m/s/s. Acceptance of the new ‘ultra-low’ limit would lead to its inclusion in a European Directive and then into UK law.

The QPA claims that the case for the proposed 0.8m/s/s limit is scientifically unproven and, if it was to be adopted, would make whole areas of work activity uneconomic. ‘At a time when jobs in the quarrying industry are already threatened by the forthcoming aggregates tax, this proposal is nothing short of ludicrous. Companies could be forced to reduce shift time to as little as 2h,’ exclaimed QPA director general Simon van der Byl.

He added that the lack of evidence of direct adverse health effects, the higher costs and potential job losses that would result in the quarrying, construction and other industries could not be remotely justified. In line with the CBI and other trade organizations, the QPA would prefer to see risks minimized by health surveillance and accepted control measures. These, it says, would ensure a high level of health protection but without the severe effects on jobs and the economy.

The QPA has written to all UK MEPs and says it will continue to urge the European Parliament to reject the Social Affairs Committee’s proposal and strike a more realistic balance between health protection, jobs and economic reality.

 

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