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Noise At Work Regulations: A Not So Silent Threat

16 March 2015

Bethan Stones headshot

Bethan Stones

Group Marketing Manager

Noise at Work Regulations

Noise At Work Regulations: A Not So Silent Threat

Did you know that in 2014 there were over 18,000 reported cases of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in the UK that noise at work regulations aim to reduce?

Noise at work can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage, generally speaking hearing loss is a gradual process, caused by many years of exposure to noisy processes. However sudden, noise exposure from extreme sources can cause immediate irreparable hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can cause a number of issues, first, the inability to hear conversation can lead to a feeling of social isolation, and second, someone suffering with hearing loss due to excessive workplace noise levels may be unable to hear any emergency alarms, putting people at risk of injury or death.

How Can I Tell If There’s A Noise Issue In My Workplace?

There are a number of red flags that can suggest there’s a noise issue in your workplace:

  • Intrusive Noise –can you hear the production area from the office area?
  • The 2m Rule – do operators need to raise their voice to communicate with someone two metres (6½ ft) away?
  • Power Tools – do operators use hand tools for more than half an hour a day?
  • Impacts – do any of your operations involve use of impact tools such as hammers?

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) requires employers to reduce the impact of noise on their employees. In addition, there is also a requirement to carry out a noise risk assessment to identify and, if necessary, rectify high noise levels.

The noise regulations prescribe two levels, or Exposure Action Values:

  • The Lower Exposure Action Value of 80dB(A) is the point at which an area should be designated as a “Noise Hazard Zone” where operatives and visitors are advised to wear hearing protection.
  • The Upper Exposure Action Value of 85dB(A) is the point at which an area should be designated as a “Hearing Protection Zone” where operatives and visitors must wear suitable hearing protection.

What Can I Do About Noise At Work?

If the answer to any of the above is “Yes”, then the next step is to identify the main sources of noise and estimate your employees’ exposures to noise. There are calculators on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) Website to aid in carrying out a basic noise risk assessment.

However, to get a truly accurate picture, it is recommended that where the noise levels are estimated to exceed the Lower Exposure Action Value, a full noise survey of the site be carried out, this includes:

  • Personal Dosimetry
  • Spot Measurements
  • Frequency Analysis of Peak Noise Sources

Is Hearing Protection Alone Enough?

As with everything in health and safety, personal protective equipment (PPE) is the last line of defence, and should only be used when there’s no other means of protection from workplace Noise Exposure.

There are a number of simple solution to noise control, and there are a number of case studies available on the HSE website. Where PPE is the only means of control, operators must be given information, instruction and training on how to place ear protection, in our experience, nine times out of ten, operators are observed not to be wearing ear plugs correctly.

Experts In Noise At Work Regulations and UKAS Noise Surveys

Envirocare have many years of experience in providing occupational noise monitoring services to enable compliance with the Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005.

Our UKAS accreditation demonstrates that Envirocare complies with Health & Safety best practice and is competent to deliver a consistently dependable, unbiased and accurate service. You can be reassured that our services meet the appropriate standard for testing employee exposure to workplace noise with the internationally recognised UKAS symbol.

Envirocare also have many years of experience in providing Audiometric services to enable compliance with The Noise at Work Regulations (2005). We provide Audiometry Tests with expert technical advice and interpretation of the findings, as well as cost effective and practical recommendations for solutions.

Call us on 01274 738668 or fill out our Envirocare Enquiry Form for any queries regarding noise exposure, workplace noise levels, noise at work regulations, UKAS Noise Surveys, noise risk assessments or any of our many other accredited Environmental and Occupational Hygiene services.