Workplace Noise Assessment

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into effect on 6th April 2006 and replaced the Noise at Work Regulations 1989. The new Regulations are significantly more stringent and reduce the acceptable level of noise to around one-third of the previous level.  There is also a greater emphasis on health surveillance and noise control with businesses expected to implement noise reduction where practical.

The consultative document that preceded the new Regulations describes three key facts about occupational noise induced hearing loss (NIHL):

  • It is usually gradual, due to prolonged exposure to noise, although it can be caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud, explosive noises such as from guns or cartridge-operated machines.
  • It is irreversible, but completely preventable.
  • Research suggests that just over a million people are exposed to potentially hazardous noise at work.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that about 170,000 people currently suffer from occupational deafness, tinnitus or some other condition arising from exposure to noise at work.  It is considered that this type of occupational ill health is preventable if:

  • Employers introduce controls to reduce exposure to noise at source;
  • Manufacturers design machinery to operate more quietly; and
  • Employees make use of the protective measures supplied.

The Regulations require employers to make a “suitable and sufficient assessment” of the risks to employees from the exposure to noise. This assessment invariably means that noise measurement must be undertaken throughout the premises and repeated when things change.  The assessment must:

  • Identify where employees are exposed to excessive noise levels
  • Ensure that sufficient signs are positioned warning of high noise levels
  • Ensure that any hearing protection used is suitable
  • Identify where additional noise controls are required
  • Ensure the provision of suitable and sufficient information and training for employees
  • Assess whether  employee health surveillance is required.

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