Noise at work: advice for employers

According to HSE, there are an estimated 2 million people in Great Britain exposed to unacceptable levels of noise at work.

World Hearing Day, 3rd March, is the perfect reminder to consider if noise is at a safe level in your business, within the law and HSE requirements.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 places a duty on employers to ensure that noise exposure levels are reduced to meet the current exposure limits. A specific requirement is placed on employers to ensure health surveillance is conducted.

The aim of the Noise Regulations is to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work, which could cause them to lose their hearing and/or to suffer from tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears).

This is most relevant to employers whose business involves using:

  • noisy powered tools or machinery
  • explosive sources such as cartridge operated tools or detonators, or guns
  • noise from impacts such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools, etc

Exposure to many different sources of noise such as harvesters, chainsaws, powered hand tools, or woodchippers, has a cumulative effect and can cause damage, even if a worker is only exposed to a single source for short periods of time.  Often the sufferer in unaware until it is too late.

Hearing loss caused by work is preventable but once hearing has gone it won’t come back, so prevention is very much the action required here.

Noise can also cause other issues at work, such as interfering with general communication and making warnings harder to hear.

It is also worth noting that noise-induced hearing loss is the second most common reason for employers’ liability insurance claims for occupational health.

So as an employer, what do you need to do?

Find out what levels of noise workers are exposed to and assess the risk to their hearing.

A noise assessment survey will identify activities in your workplace that exceed the daily exposure levels and require actioning.

Noise level measurements are gathered using a combination of static and personal readings on your premises. Recommendations are provided based on the readings obtained from both sets of measurement for each particular activity.

Actions required will depend on the levels of noise exposure and could include:

  • Control the noise exposure by engineering it out, e.g. fitting a silencer
  • Change the work pattern or the layout of the workplace – don’t just rely on hearing protectors
  • Provide the quietest machinery that will do the job
  • Issue hearing protection (a selection, so workers can choose a type that suits them)
  • Send workers for regular hearing checks
  • Provide training and information
  • Consult workers and their representatives

By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that you can protect the hearing of your employees.

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 noise-control action plan.

If you make any changes that may affect noise exposure, make sure you review noise levels again and implement any necessary changes.  Don’t forget that both young and old employees are affected, age has no relevance.

It may not always be apparent that there is a noise hazard, so it’s always best to keep on top of noise levels and measure on a regular basis, to keep within the legal guidelines.  Our specialist Occupational Hygiene consultants can help you with your assessments and in identifying any excessive noise exposure.

Contact us to book a Noise Assessment today

By law, as an employer, you must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that you can protect the hearing of your employees.

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