Whole Body Vibration - A Primer 

There is much more to do. We need to consider providing personal dosimeters which can measure not just blast, but also Whole Body Vibration (WBV).

In the land domain, Whole Body Vibration affects anyone who crews, fights or is carried in a vehicle, particularly a tracked vehicle. The operational ability of crews and dismounts is degraded by exposure over time. The longer a person is subjected, the less able they become. Tiredness, inability to focus, musculoskeletal effects like joint swelling and back pain are all associated with exposure to excessive vibration. 

Unfortunately the effects are cumulative. Degradation of joints, bones and soft tissue are all known effects. It is suspected that, at specific frequencies, there are serious long term cognitive effects.

Air Forces acknowledge the issue in low level operations, referring to an Air Frame's "Bumps per Minute" characteristic and limiting aircrew exposure over time.

Work is in hand to capture and evaluate the effects experienced by fast boat crews - suspended seats capable of reacting to; and capturing the frequencies and forces unique to waterborne operations are available from UK companies such as Tekseating (Dave Parkman dave@tekseating.com).

The UK MOD has recently carried out a first pass fleet wide survey of its Land fleet of both tracked and wheeled vehicles seeking to understand the gross characteristics of each platform in terms of Whole Body Vibration; and firing impulse where a weapon is fitted. 

The results were compared to the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines (https://www.hse.gov.uk/vibration/wbv/index.htm)

It emerged that the HSE standards have developed to address static industrial machinery. Some very early work has been done to map them to wheeled plant (loaders and dumpers etc). But it was quickly understood that the higher frequency vibration of a modern tracked vehicle operating on a hard surface (a concrete tank road for instance) displayed vibration characteristics which were much more problematic to equate.

Much work remains to be done to understand the Human Factors issues raised by our growing understanding of the effects of WBV. Capturing the data will be a useful first step. Developing counter measures will require much greater understanding of the interface between the human form and the mechanisms generating the vibration in the first place.