Human responses to vibration


Human response to vibrations can be divided into acute or permanent. The acute effects are temporary and usually arise immediately when exposed to vibration and disappears after they cease. The permanent effects leading to various injuries and may arise after prolonged exposure.



Acute effects 


Permanent injuries 


Hand-arm vibration


Numbness, stress, reduced temperature, fatigue in the hands and arms.



Vascular, nerve, muscle and joint / bone injury.


Whole body vibration


Motion sickness, impaired motor skills, impaired vision, reduced performance, increased risk of fatigue.



Neck / back injury.











The table shows a summary of both acute effects and permanent injuries to the vibration exposure.


Hand-arm vibration (HAV)

When using hand-held vibrating machines, acute effects could be numbness, fatigue or pain in the finger and hands immediately after the exposure. The time it takes before we regain normal sensation varies depending on the vibration level and exposure time. The reduction may vary between 10 and 60 minutes.

HAV can cause permanent effects of the blood vessels of the fingers so that blood supply decreases whit typical symptoms of finger blanching so called "white finger". White fingers usually start at the tip of a finger, and if the exposure continues becomes the affected areas of fingers larger. White fingers triggered mainly by damp and cold, especially when the body is cooled. Vibration can also damage the nerves, muscles of the fingers and hands and cause discomfort in the arms and shoulders. Numbness, loss of sensation and trouble fastening buttons are examples of nerve effects.

 human responses to vibration1

Picture of "white fingers" after prolonged exposure to hand-arm vibration


Whole body vibration (WBV)

Exposure to whole body vibration could cause acute effects of heart rate, blood pressure, balance, breathing and fatigue. Whole-body vibration can also cause symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, sweating, and vision problems. WBV in mining vehicles, for example, can also act soporific and reduce attention and could pose a security risk. Vibration can thus impair our performance.

Whole body vibration can during prolonged sitting cause an increased risk of pain in the lower back, shoulders and neck. It is often difficult to distinguish the effect of whole body vibration from the impact of other factors like bad and twisted postures, heavy lifting or prolonged sitting without interruption.

People with increased sensitivity and pregnant

It is not known how other diseases may be affected by vibration exposure or if vibrations can accelerate an already known vascular or nerve disease. There is still reason to show special care by subjecting them suffering from such diseases vibration. The nerve disease, for example diabetes could worsen by simultaneous exposure to vibration. It is inappropriate for persons with innate propensity for white finger, or for those who already have nerve damage, exposure to vibration.

Pregnant women should not be subjected to shock or whole body vibration. Work with whole body vibration often include the second ergonomic and physical stress that is not good in pregnancy, e.g. noise, unfavourable locked posture, prolonged sitting in the same position. These factors need to be risk assessed according to employee's pregnancy.


Human responses to vibration

Risk Prevention

Health and Safety