Noise at Work - Guide for Managers

The ultimate guide to managing Noise at Work, complying with the UK regulations and carrying out risk assessments

What is Noise at Work?

Noise at Work is the term given to the subject of the noise levels that employee’s are exposed to at work, and is centred around their safety and protection.

In the UK the Health and Safety Executive enforces a set of regulations that all UK businesses should comply with, named The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Simply, the main aim of the regulations is to ensure employees are protected from excessive noise exposure to prevent hearing loss and damage.

Hearing Protection for Noise at Work

 

Risks of Noise at Work

When noise exposure in the workplace isn’t managed, both the employer and employee’s face different types of risks.

The Employer

The Employee

Industrial deafness claimsNoise induced hearing loss (NIHL)
HSE finesInability to hear certain frequencies
HSE interventionsTemporary/Permanent Threshold Shift
Poor media publicityTinnitus

 

Health surveillance and audiometric (hearing) tests

The importance of providing health surveillance and hearing tests goes without saying, but implementing a hearing conservation programme without breaking the bank is another challenge in itself.

The process of putting together a whole hearing assessment programme is for another day and another report, but suffice to say that you need it and you need full access to all of the hearing test results, so beware of anyone who tries to say you can’t have them.

Audiometry for the Noise at Work Regulations

There is only one purpose to the majority of health surveillance and that is to establish a baseline as early in someone’s employment as possible and then to compare against that baseline periodically thereafter. This might be bi-annually, annually or even sooner if required.

  • Establish a baseline at start of employment
  • Perform periodic comparisons to that baseline thereafter, bi-annually, annually or even sooner if required

There is a tendency in many businesses to consider health surveillance as a medical process, and in some instances there may be a slightly medical element to parts of the testing, but it will help you to remember that the process as a whole is not medical. This type of health surveillance is non-medical for the following reasons:

  • Audiometric testing doesn’t have to be conducted by a medically qualified person
  • There’s nothing diagnostic about the testing
  • Whilst results of the tests are of a personal nature, there’s not quite the same medical in confidence barriers, so as an employer you are allowed access to the results

Audiometric Testing

Specically looking at noise exposure and Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL), The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 state that you should conduct ‘appropriate’ health surveillance on anyone who is at risk. The HSE, in their guidance add that this should be anyone who is exposed to above the Upper Action Value of 85dBA Lep’d (see later for an explanation of Lep’d).

So what is appropriate health surveillance then for noise? The Answer is only one thing:

Industrial Screening Audiometry

You will probably have a questionnaire each year to go with the testing as with all health surveillance, but a hearing check should always be a part of the process.

You can find out which members of your workforce should have hearing tests and learn the easiest ways to start implementing a hearing conservation programme in your business by reading Who should have hearing tests and the easiest way to get started with audiometry.

Setting out your risk assessment

The rst essential step of a noise risk assessment it to start by making observations. This forms the basis of the HSE guidance and will lead the rest of your assessment. Following this you will then be in a position to decide upon the next steps and what will be needed. The following should be considered during your Risk Assessment:

  • Who’s hearing checks show early signs of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)?
  • Where are the potentially noisy areas in the workplace?
  • Who is working in them or visiting, and for how long?
  • Do you have to shout in those areas to be heard?
  • Is there any potentially noisy mobile plant being used by employees?
  • Is any hearing protection in use, by whom and what is it?

Read Six Things You Need to Consider During Your Noise at Work Risk Assessments and ensure your risk assessments are accurate.

Measurement and Instrumentation

One of the first things to understand is that it’s entirely possible that you might not have to actually take any measurements at all.  The truth is, if you can be confident there’s no discernible noise in your workplace, then so long as you say so in your risk assessment, you’ve covered yourself. Unfortunately it’s not that simple for most businesses.

Read Do I Need to Measure Noise Levels at Work for a more detailed look into whether you need to take measurements.

 

 

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