Exposure to noise at work can cause irreversible hearing damage. It is one of the most common 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.
Noise Regulations have been deployed in the workplace so that the hearing of workers is protected from excessive noise.
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
Reducing the duration of exposure by job rotation or providing a noise refuge can also reduce the impact.
The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is 85 dB(A) (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is 80 dB(A).
There is also an exposure limit value of 87 dB(A), taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed.
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.
The full text of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 can be viewed online.
Give us a call on 03456 122 144 if you would like to discuss questions concerning noise at work or for any other matter.