Exposure to noise at work can cause irreversible hearing damage. It is one of the commonest health problems and can be difficult to detect as the effects build up gradually over time.
When people are exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace, it can lead to permanent hearing damage. This damage can cause poorer hearing ability (general hearing loss), as well as a condition known as tinnitus (a constant ringing in the ears).
One of the main impacts of hearing loss is on the individual’s ability to communicate with others. Exclusion from communication can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration, particularly among older people with hearing loss.
Throughout all industry, industrial hearing loss remains the occupational injury with the highest number of civil claims accounting for about 75% of all occupational injury claims.
The best way to prevent harm is by controlling noise at source, remember that wearing hearing protection should always be the last resort.
Ensure that a risk assessment is carried out before exposing employees to harmful noise levels, and as with all hazards aim to eliminate the harm, or if not possible reducing the harm to a level as low as reasonably practicable.
Consider positioning or moving noisy machinery/plant into areas where there are no workers, or few workers.
If noisy machinery/plant has to remain in the working area, enclose it within a sound-insulating enclosure if possible.
If an enclosure is not possible, reduce noise by other engineering means such as:
- lining guards/panels with noise dampening material
- providing acoustic screens
- fitting anti-vibration mountings
- fitting silencers to exhaust systems
- ensuring good maintenance to stop rattles and prevent noise from wear.
Where noise levels still exceed 85dB(A) ensure workers wear hearing protection (earplugs or earmuffs) within the designated and clearly marked zones. Reducing the duration of exposure by job rotation or providing a noise refuge can also reduce the impact.
Where your risk assessment identifies that employees are being exposed to harmful levels of noise, prior to the use of hearing protection you will need to arrange for health surveillance.
Our Business Safe retained service can support you in minimising noise related risks, our Risk Assessment Builder can help you create the relevant assessments and we can also carry out an assessment of exposure to noise in the workplace.