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Limiting vibrations – it’s all in the balance

June 22, 2023

Power tools are a key to productivity in the oil & gas or the metal working industry. Maintenance and production tasks must be carried out efficiently, however intensive use of vibrating power tools, such as grinders, can expose operators to Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). How can we reduce risks, improve productivity and reduce the abrasive costs at the same time?

Using autobalanced tools limit vibrations on grinders

In order to prevent workers from experiencing HAVS, to comply with the European Directive 2002/44/EC, and to prioritize best practice, you should consider tools with an autobalancer. This will help to reduce vibration levels and operators’ fatigue, thereby ensuring users’ safety while improving productivity and profitability ratios. Additionally, the extra cost of the autobalancer is quickly compensated by the decreased abrasive consumption and the increased productivity.

Célia Esnault- Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

It is important to keep in mind the simple measures that can be implemented to minimize the risk of Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS). These include selecting a robust tool with a short trigger time that is appropriate for the task at hand, ensuring hands are kept warm, taking regular breaks, and alternating between tasks and grip positions with varying levels of stress.

Célia Esnault , Global Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

What is an autobalancer?

Quite simply, an autobalancer stabilizes a tool. An autobalancer is a disk, such as ball bearing, with freely moving balls inside that is fixed onto the output of the tool as a flange, and spins at the same speed as the tool’s output. While spinning, the balls compensate for any abrasive imperfection. Their fast rotation creates a gyroscopic effect that balances the tool, greatly reducing any vibration.

An autobalancer is considered as one of the best anti-vibration options for power tools, not only because ergonomics are improved but also because operators’ fatigue is reduced and consequently the risk of injury decreases. Moreover, users can work with these tools for longer as they reach their maximum limit of vibration later than when they work with tools that do not include this feature.

By choosing a tool with an autobalancer there are many benefits:

  • Increased efficiency, profitability and productivity 
  • Tools’ lifetime is enhanced as they have shorter trigger times 
  • Abrasive disks last longer because the contact between the abrasive and the application is optimized. This increases the material removal rate up to 15% more than using a tool without an autobalancer.

What is the effect on productivity when vibrations are reduced?

Let’s look at an example and compare the CP3650 grinder (without an autobalancer) against the CP3650-120AB5VK grinder (with an autobalancer). The autobalancer reduces vibrations from 7.5 m/s² to 4.5 m/s², and since the time of use is proportional to the square of the vibration value, this has a strong effect on how long you can grind safely!

    Time to reach action value Time to reach limit value
Tool - grinders

Vibrating magnitude, m/s2

Hours Minutes Hours Minutes
CP3650-120AB5 7.5   53 3 33
CP3650-120AB5VK 4.5 2 28 9 53

The grinder with an autobalancer can be used for 2 hours 28 minutes before taking adjustments to improve the workstation in order to comply with the directive EU 2002/44/EC, and almost 10 hours before reaching the point when users need to stop using the tool for the day. This means operators can grind for three times longer than when using a tool without an autobalancer.

Célia Esnault- Global Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

In addition to utilizing a tool equipped with an autobalancer to mitigate vibrations, operators should also take into account the use of tools featuring anti-vibration side handles, wearing vibration-reducing gloves, and working with well-maintained tools.

Célia Esnault , Global Product Marketing Manager at Chicago Pneumatic

Disclaimer: This article is neither a magnum opus control exposure to hand-arm vibration nor legal advice for your company to use in complying with your local regulations. Instead, it provides background information to help you better understand how to address some important points. This information is not the same as legal advice, where an attorney applies the law to your specific circumstances, so we insist that you consult an attorney if you’d like advice on your interpretation of this information or its accuracy. In a nutshell, you may not rely on this paper as legal advice, nor as a recommendation of any particular legal understanding.

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