Noise at Work

Noise is generally defined as unwanted sound. It is a problem for many reasons:

  • Environmentally it can be a nuisance resulting in disturbance, loss of sleep and fatigue
  • It can distract attention and concentration, mask audible warning signals or interfere with work thereby becoming a causative factor in accidents
  • Exposure to excessive noise can result in hearing impairment.

Do you have a noise problem at work? Find out about Noise Assessment, Reduction of Risk and References

This will depend on how loud the noise is and how long people are exposed to it. As a simple guide you may have a problem if:

  • You have to shout to be clearly heard by someone 2 metres away
  • You or your employees' ears are still ringing after leaving the workplace and/or
  • People use equipment that causes loud explosive noises such as cartridge-operated tools or guns.

The Noise at Work Regulations place a legal duty on employers to reduce the risk of damage to employees' hearing. They introduce a control framework by requiring:

Assessment

Assessment of Exposure

An assessment of the extent of the problem is required when employees are likely to be exposed to the first action level or above or to the peak action level or above.

  • First action level = LEP,D of 85 dB(A) for example, a heavy lorry about 7metres away
  • Second action level = LEP,D 90 dB(A) for example, a pighouse at feeding time

The other action level is a value of the maximum pressure reached by the sound wave, i.e. a single loud noise:

  • Peak action level = maximum pressure 200 Pascals (140dB) for example, a jet aircraft taking off 25metres away.

Assessment records

Following any noise assessment an adequate record of the assessment and of any review of the assessment shall be kept until a further noise assessment is made. The assessment should be used to develop an action plan for introducing noise control measures.

Reduction of risk of hearing damage

The risk of hearing damage must be reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable.

Reduction of noise exposure

When employees are likely to be exposed to the second action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, employers must take steps to reduce noise exposure so far as is reasonably practicable by means other than the provision of hearing protection.

Ear protection

When exposed to the first action level or above in circumstances where the daily personal noise exposure of that employee is likely to be less than 90dB(A), an employee, at his request, must be provided with suitable and sufficient ear protectors.

Any employee likely to be exposed to the second action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, must be provided with suitable personal ear protectors that when properly worn are expected to keep the risk of damage to the employee's hearing to below that arising from exposure to the second action level or as the case may be the peak action level.

Ear protection zones

Hearing protection zones shall be established and marked with notices.

Maintenance and use of equipment

Employers shall ensure that any equipment provided to comply with the regulations is fully and properly used and maintained. Employees shall fully and properly use personal ear protectors and any other protective measures when the employer provides them and employees must report any defects to the employer.

Provision of information to employees

Employees who are likely to be exposed to the first action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, shall be provided with adequate information, instruction and training on:

  • The risk of damage to that employee's hearing that such exposure may cause
  • What steps that employee can take to minimise that risk
  • The steps that employee must take in order to obtain the personal ear protectors
  • That employee's obligations under the regulations

Reduction of Risk

Reduction of risk of hearing damage

The risk of hearing damage must be reduced to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable.

Reduction of noise exposure

When employees are likely to be exposed to the second action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, employers must take steps to reduce noise exposure so far as is reasonably practicable by means other than the provision of hearing protection.

Ear protection

When exposed to the first action level or above in circumstances where the daily personal noise exposure of that employee is likely to be less than 90dB(A), an employee, at his request, must be provided with suitable and sufficient ear protectors.

Any employee likely to be exposed to the second action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, must be provided with suitable personal ear protectors that when properly worn are expected to keep the risk of damage to the employee's hearing to below that arising from exposure to the second action level or as the case may be the peak action level.

Ear protection zones

Hearing protection zones shall be established and marked with notices.

Maintenance and use of equipment

Employers shall ensure that any equipment provided to comply with the regulations is fully and properly used and maintained. Employees shall fully and properly use personal ear protectors and any other protective measures when the employer provides them and employees must report any defects to the employer.

Provision of information to employees

Employees who are likely to be exposed to the first action level or above, or to the peak action level or above, shall be provided with adequate information, instruction and training on:

  • The risk of damage to that employee's hearing that such exposure may cause
  • What steps that employee can take to minimise that risk
  • The steps that employee must take in order to obtain the personal ear protectors
  • That employee's obligations under the regulations

References

  1. The Noise at Work Regulations (LEGUK)
  2. L 108: Reducing Noise at Work - Guidance on the Noise at Work Regulations (HSE)
  3. HSG56: Noise at Work: Noise assessment, information and control. (Noise Guides 3 to 8) (HSE)
  4. HS(G)138: Sound Solutions - Techniques to Reduce Noise at Work (HSE)
  5. HSG 232: Sound Solutions for the Food and Drink Industries - Reducing Noise in Food and Drink Manufacturing (HSE)
  6. INDG 75: The Noise at Work regulations - A Brief Guide to the Requirements for Controlling Noise at Work (HSE)
  7. INDG 99: Noise at work - A guide for employees (HSE)
  8. INDG 299: Protect your Hearing (HSE)
  9. INDG 362: Noise at Work - Advice for Employers (HSE)
  10. INDG 363: Protect your hearing or lose it

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