Is Excessive Noise At Work As Bad As It Sounds?

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Excessive noise at work and what you need to know - health and safety management

There are over 17,000 people in the UK who suffer from hearing loss, ringing in their ears and other conditions due to being exposed to excessive noise in the workplace.

However, how bad is this for workers in Britain?

In this weeks’ blog post we are going to look at the facts around noise in the workplace and what effect it can have on employee’s who are subjected to it over prolonged periods of time.


Noise & The Law

 

Most workplaces are noisy especially on construction sites however under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) an employer has a duty to reduce the risk of harm to their employees due to excessive noise.

This not only includes providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) but it also means carrying out a risk assessment and ensuring that the noise levels comply with the law. In practice, an employee shouldn’t be exposed to daily or weekly noise above 87 dB or a peak sound pressure of 140 dB.

It should be noted that these regulations don’t apply to members of the public or low-level noise that doesn’t cause hearing damage.


What Effect Does Exposure To Excessive Noise Have?

 

Aside from hearing loss, there are other health conditions that come with being exposed to excessive levels of noise over a prolonged period of time.

A study from the University of British Columbia found that the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure is more than doubled by being persistently exposed to high levels of noise at work. Another report from the World Health Organisation discovered that being exposed to a persistent level of noise of 50 dB can cause other cardiovascular problems.

Stress, mental health problems and other psychological effects can also be brought on or exasperated by exposure to high levels of noise.


Controlling The Risk To Employee’s

 

The effects of noise and how to control these risks are covered in the NEBOSH course and there are some steps an employer can take to limit the effect that noise has on employees.

Carrying out an effective risk assessment is generally the first step to identifying the levels of noise – the HSE has a good guide for doing this – and providing appropriate PPE is important too. Ensure that any PPE that is issued doesn’t completely cut out noise as this can pose a danger in itself, for example causing isolation and the worker not being able to hear alarms.

Relevant training is vital not just for employers but for employees. Creating a positive health and safety culture is imperative and it comes from training employees and allowing them to be involved in the process of keeping everyone safe. This can help control the risks of noise exposure as employees will be more likely to speak up and highlight issues at work.


Employer’s Responsibilities – Legal Duties

 

It is important as an employer to be aware of your responsibilities. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety exposure to noise at work.  This is due to the regulation being a legal duty so it must be followed by employees by law.

But what are these duties exactly? Well, let’s take a look…

  • Assessing the risks to your employers
  • Taking action to reduce noise exposure
  • Providing your employees with hearing protection if you’re incapable of reducing the noise exposure via other methods
  • Ensuring the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
  • Providing your employees with information, instructions and training
  • Carrying health surveillance where there is risk to health

It is also important to note the regulations do not apply to members of the public who are exposed to noise from their non-work activities and low-level noise, which can cause inconvenience yet causes no risk of hearing damage.

We all know noise is an unavoidable consequence in many workplaces. However with the right steps taken to address excessive noise levels then it shouldn’t pose any short or long-term health problems for those who are exposed to it.

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