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University students get innovative to tackle vibration injuries

McGee has challenged Nottingham Trent University’s BSc Product Design students to develop new and innovative ways to reduce the risk of conditions such hand-arm vibration (HAVS) developing in workers who regularly use hand-held or hand-guided power tools on site.

McGee runs a new competition annually for the university’s Product Design students, and this year set the students the difficult task of coming up with inventions to reduce vibration injuries.

HAVS is caused by repeated and frequent use of hand-held vibrating tools – for example, power drills, chainsaws, and pneumatic drills. Many sufferers experience a wide range of debilitating effects due to the condition that impacts both their day to day lives and in their ability to work.

Although the number of new claims is reducing, the HSE reported 7,115 new claims for HAVS in Great Britain from 2008 to 2017.

By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to hand-arm vibration. Where the risks are low, the actions you take may be simple and inexpensive, but where the risks are high, you should manage them using a prioritised action plan.

There are many products available on the market to help manage the risks in the workplace, but McGee wanted to explore alternative solutions to tackle this industry-wide issue.

Working in teams, the students had just four weeks to develop their inventions to prototype stage, back up their proposals with all the necessary research, tests, development drawings, costings, and manufacturing feasibility.

The students presented their proposals to a panel of McGee judges, who then had the difficult task of selecting a winning team, second, third and highly commended – A total of £3,600 was up for grabs by the students.

The winning team with their “Countershock” product produced a viable, ergonomic design.  It is practical, easily produced and the statistics were available to show the reduction in vibration levels. The solution can be adapted to fit all tools and the judges were particularly interested to see the use and adaption of existing technology used for shotguns.

John Hennessy, Health and Safety Director at McGee, commented:

“The students never fail to impress with the ideas they present to us. This is our fourth year of running the competition, and with each year the standard of ideas and presentations get better and better. It is a pleasure to work with Nottingham Trent University and we are excited by the ideas presented to us. We would love to develop some of the ideas further in collaboration with the students and bring the inventions onto our projects to test in a real-world scenario.

“I would like to congratulate the winners and thank all students for their efforts.”

Ashley Marlborough, from winning team “Countershock”, received a £500 cash prize from McGee. Commenting on how he felt for his team to be crowned the winners of this year’s competition, he said:

“Working with McGee to reduce the significant impact that HAVS can have on their worker’s lives has been insightful and enjoyable. Their demonstration of the tools and advice from the safety team were invaluable to the project’s success. Our team would be thrilled to continue work alongside McGee and see any future developments for the project.”

Dr. Matthew Watkins, Senior Lecturer on the BSc (Hons) Product Design course in the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment, said:

“Once again McGee offered an excellent and challenging brief to the students, with detailed and specific guidance from their team. To which students responded very positively in seeking to address the challenges of HAVS when using impact power tools. A variety of strong solutions were developed, but the winning team produced a thorough and complete design backed up by in-depth research and empirical testing.  The competition was again a very enjoyable and valuable, real-world experience for all involved.”

Previous McGee competitions haven’t stopped at cash prizes.  A 12-month student placement was offered to one winning team member.  One invention received a number of prestigious industry awards, and one winning team’s design was even patented by McGee with the patent rights being shared between the students and the university.

Since setting up and running the first competition in 2015, Dr. Watkins has attended a number of industry and academic conferences both in the UK and abroad to deliver talks about the industry-academic collaboration and the benefits and opportunities it has provided the students.

McGee looks forward to setting the students another, and equally difficult, real-world challenge in 2020!