Employers Urged To Take Action To Control Harmful Levels Of Noise At Work

This year, Noise Action Week takes place during 19-24 May

by Pascale O'Rourke | Thursday 15 May 2014

Noise Action Week gives a focus for local authority noise teams, housing providers, mediation services, health professionals and businesses concerned with reducing the impact of noise to raise awareness of noise reduction solutions – which are often very simple.

During Noise Action Week, noise measurement products specialist, Pulsar Instruments Plc, is encouraging employers to consider the noise produced in their work environment and is raising awareness of the services available to help control the problem.

Hearing loss in the workplace was relatively unknown until reports from Insurance Companies began to emerge in the press in recent years about a sudden rise in claims. Indeed, a significant number of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims has been recorded since 2001 – 60,000 claims notifications within the UK alone in 2013 (Source: Institute of Actuaries). The majority of the claims are made by employees against their employers surrounding deafness and hearing problems brought on by their working environment.

Excessive noise can cause damage in a number of ways. For example, exposure to loud noise in short spurts can cause just as much harm to our hearing as moderately loud noise over a long period of time. As a result, it can take a while for workers to experience the effect of the long-term noise damage - sometimes even after they have left the company where loud or constant exposure to noise was an issue.

It is important to remember that the effects of noise-induced hearing loss are permanent. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It has been reported that over a million Britons are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of noise at work every day, and that 1 in 7 people in the UK are said to be either deaf or hard of hearing.

The rise in deafness claims has helped raise awareness around workplace noise. However, although the Law does protect employees against noise induced hearing loss, the severity of it is still often overlooked.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that six key steps are taken by employers in order to minimise risks from workplace noise hazards.

1. Carry out regular risk assessments, using an industry approved sound level meter to monitor noise levels and discussing potential hazards with staff
2. Take appropriate action to reduce any risks caused by excessive exposure to noise
3. Where noise levels cannot be reduced to a safe level, provide employees with suitable hearing protection
4. Do not exceed legal limits on noise exposure (80 – 87dB, depending on the nature of the noise)
5. Provide staff with adequate information, instruction and training on workplace noise hazards and how to minimise the risks
6. Where there is a risk to health, health surveillance should be carried out on a regular basis

Companies are therefore urged to comply with the necessary ‘legal limits' and appoint, train and equip designated health and safety staff to monitor and manage noise levels around their premises. It is also their responsibility to investigate whether further action is required and if so, determine if their employees are at risk.

Once a noise control strategy is in place, it will need to be reviewed regularly. Therefore, if in future, new equipment comes available or the company moves or rearranges the layout of its current premises, the employees' risks to noise will need to be re-evaluated.

For staff whose job involves moving around throughout the day, personal noise measurement devices are available. Usually worn on the body such as on the shoulder, the devices are able to capture an accurate reading of the noise levels they come into contact with every day or over a shift.

There are a number of general warning signs to look out for when hearing is potentially at risk, such as if people need to shout at each other in order to communicate, which is a good indication that noise levels are probably too high.
Although we experience some level of noise during a working day, it is important to understand that some workplaces are noisier than others are and therefore, employers need to carry out the necessary precautions.


Pascale O'Rourke
Pulsar Instruments Plc
+44 (0) 1723 518011

Thursday 15 May 2014 / file under Construction | Engineering | Safety