Hand-Arm Vibration Controls for Jackleg Rock Drills: a Pilot Study Assessing Ergonomic Hazards

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Jackleg drill operators are exposed to harmful levels of hand-arm vibration (HAV). Anti-vibration handles and gloves pro-vide modest reductions in HAV exposures and forearm muscle exertion from the use of anti-vibration handles and gloves by jackleg drill operators. The goal of this pilot study was to investigate changes in HAV with the use of anti-vibration gloves and handles compared to forearm muscle exertion experienced by operators and measured with surface electromyography (EMG). Five subjects operated the drill under four different cases: no anti-vibration controls, anti-vibration gloves only, anti-vibration handle only, and simultaneous anti-vibration handle and glove use. Muscle exertion was expressed as a per-cent of maximum voluntary contraction (%MVC) and was compared using Welch’s ANOVA with Games-Howell post hoc comparisons. The case with both anti-vibration controls in use simultaneously (largest grip diameter) was associated with a mean %MVC of 36.13% during operation for all forearm muscles combined, which was significantly higher than that of the other cases (p < 0.05). There were no statistically significant differences in mean HAV exposures. The anti-vibration handle with anti-vibration glove case only increased the maximum allowable exposure time by 8 min as compared to the control case without any anti-vibration controls. These results suggest that the modest HAV exposure reductions from the use of anti-vibration handles and gloves may pale in comparison to the increased muscle exertion resulting from their use, and this trade-off among jackleg drill operators is a potential concern that warrants further investigation.