Workplace noise assessments and occupational noise monitoring need to be carried out to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work.
Excessive noise at work can result in temporary or even permanent hearing loss. A worker’s hearing can recover within a few hours, however continued exposure to high noise levels over a period of time could lead to permanent damage.
What Is A Workplace Noise Assessment?
Workplace noise has been a constant threat since the birth of industry. Legislation now requires all UK employers to assess the risks to its employee’s health and safety created by exposure to noise in the workplace. Not doing so could result in hefty fines and even prison.
One way of assessing those risks is to carry out a noise assessment, also known as occupational noise monitoring. The results of this noise survey will aid the receiving company in formulating an action plan to reduce exposures to noise, as required by regulations.
ECL offers noise surveys to monitor noise levels in the workplace and evaluate measures set in place for reducing or eliminating risks from exposure to noise as per regulations.
Why Is Occupational Noise Monitoring So Important?
Regular exposure to workplace noise over time can result in noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to noise at work continues to be a significant occupational disease especially workplace hearing loss. On top of not being able to hear, noise-induced hearing loss can affect a person’s mental and physical health. Eventually causing social isolation and being unaware of nearby hazards in both living and industry environments.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an estimated 170,000 people in the UK suffer noise-induced hearing loss or deafness. Workers have been known to develop tinnitus (a permanent, distressing ringing or buzzing in the ears). This can lead to disturbed sleep and other acoustic trauma conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.
Too much exposure to noise can cause temporary changes to hearing or a temporary ringing in the ear. These problems usually subside within a few hours of leaving the affected noisy area. Repeated exposures to loud noises, however, can lead to permanent, incurable hearing loss and tinnitus.
Noise becomes a huge safety hazard when it interferes with communication. Making it difficult for warnings to be heard.
- Noise Level around 80dB(A) – If employees need to raise voices for normal conversation when 2 meters apart.
- Noise level around 85dB(A) – If employees are exposed to noise making them shout to talk to someone around 1m away.
Who Requires A Workplace Noise Assessment?
Workplace noise assessments are a legal requirement for all companies registered within the UK. The latest Control of Noise at Work Regulations came into force in 2005 and reduced the noise threshold at which occupational noise must be addressed in the workplace.
Whether you have a problem with noise in the workplace or not will depend upon how loud the noise is and how long you are exposed to it.
Any employers who undertake work with the possibility of exposing employees to noises at 80dB(A) or above must make a sufficient and suitable assessment of any noise risk. The noise risk assessment must outline all measures required in order to meet the requirements of the regulations by either mitigating or eliminating exposure.
As a simple guide, you will probably require a workplace noise survey if:
- You have an intrusive noise within your environment for most of the working day
- If your working environment consists of noises made by an impact like hammering etc
- Your employees use noisy power tools or machinery for more than 30 minutes every day
- If you work in a noisy industry such as construction, engineering, woodworking or a foundry
What Is A Noise Risk Assessment?
Noise Risk Assessments should establish whether exposure action values are likely to be exceeded or not. When it is exceeded, evidence should be provided of an action plan for controlling any noise risks and compliance to all current UK noise regulations. If a company fails to control noise hazards, it can result in formal enforcement from the HSE.
A workplace noise assessment should be carried out by a competent person, and should include:
- Controls and recommendations to reduce noise exposure.
- Recommendations on which employees may require health surveillance.
- Find excessive noise areas, assess risks and identify operators likely to be affected.
- A reliable measurement of employee exposures compared against Exposure Action Values.
What Are Your Workplace Noise Obligations?
The HSE set employers a number of obligations to protect their workers as part of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Where noise levels have been exceeded, employers are obliged to provide comprehensive workplace noise assessments to current standards. Employees have duties under the Regulations too. The Regulations require you as an employer to:
- Assess the risks to your employees from noise at work
- Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces risks
- Make sure the legal limits of noise exposure are not exceeded
- Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to employee health
- Provide employees with hearing protection if noise exposure cannot be reduced
- Provide employees with information, instruction, and training regarding noise at work
The above regulations do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise from their non-work activities or low-level noise that is a nuisance but causes no risk of hearing damage.
How Is A Noise Survey Conducted?
ECL conducts workplace noise assessments throughout the UK in accordance with The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
ECL’s experienced consultants will measure personal exposure using dosemeters. We will also undertake static mapping to provide clients with an easy to digest table of results. A qualified and experienced occupational hygienist from ECL will:
- Set up control strategies for exposure
- Assist with updating all noise policies
- Give practical expert advice to aid in reducing exposure
- Ensure noise controls are properly used and maintained
- Record any significant findings from the noise risk assessment
- Reduce noise exposure where possible to as low as reasonably practicable
- Calculate any measurement of personal noise exposure using dosemeters
- Calculate static measurements to map and zone all significant sources of noise
- Provide information, instruction, and training where noise hazards are detected
- Provide guidance on suitable hearing protection for operators working in hearing protection zones
- Conduct noise risk assessments including assessments of exposure and identification of controls
- Give a comprehensive report with results and recommendations for further reduction of exposure
- Provide frequency analysis of major noise sources to determine effectiveness of hearing protection
- Aid you in ensuring operators are not exposed to noise levels above the Upper Exposure Action Values of 85dB(A)
It is important to remember that noise exposure is a combination of both level and time. This is why all noise measurement instruments used by ECL measure the noise in Leq (Time-weighted average).
How Often Should A Noise Survey Be Carried Out?
Although there is no clear answer listed within regulation regarding how often a noise assessment should be carried out. Within the Control of Noise at Work Regulations, they state a noise risk assessment (which should include a noise survey) be reviewed if “a significant change in the work to which the workplace noise assessment relates” or “there is a reason to suspect the risk assessment is no longer valid”.
Workplace Noise and Occupational Noise Monitoring Experts
ECL has numerous years of experience providing occupational noise monitoring services to companies in the UK and around the world.
All ECL workplace noise assessments demonstrate compliance with Health & Safety best practice. ECL is competent to deliver an accurate, dependable, unbiased and fair service.
Fill out our ECL Enquiry Form or call us on 01443 841760 for any queries regarding noise surveys, occupational noise monitoring or workplace noise assessments. You may also be interested in our various other Air Quality Monitoring, Occupational Hygiene, and Environmental Consultancy services.