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Study finds most farm machinery reaches vibration limits

South Carolina agricultural workers could be experiencing elevated whole-body vibration levels while operating farm machinery, according to a recent study funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The study, which was conducted by researchers from the University of Iowa, has been recently published in the journal Annals of Work Exposures and Health.

For the study, researchers placed vibration sensors on 112 pieces of farm machinery, such as all-terrain vehicles, tractors, forklifts, combines and skid loaders. They then had 55 agricultural workers use the machinery and measured how well the seats absorbed the vibrations. Researchers found that almost 30 percent of the machinery reached the European Union's whole-body vibration limit within two hours of operation. They also found that 56 percent of the machinery reached the EU's whole-body exposure limit within eight hours of operation.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists has similar vibration exposure limits to the EU, but the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not require employers to comply with any vibration limit standards. According to medical experts, whole-body vibration is linked with back pain, which can be costly to treat. Safety advocates recommend that workers reduce their risk of vibration exposure by ensuring that the seat suspension system on each piece of farm machinery is well-maintained and greased. Seats should also be replaced as soon as they wear out.

Agricultural workers who suffer on-the-job injuries could be left unable to work for weeks or months. In order to make ends meet during this difficult time, it may be necessary to apply for workers' compensation benefits. This could cover medical bills and wage losses while a worker recovers at home. An attorney may evaluate an injured worker's case and help prepare a workers' compensation claim.

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