Noise at Work Regulations to Control Workplace Noise
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) became effective in 2006. The Regulations are relevant to all employers who operate a noisy workplace and should be an integral part of any health and safety strategy. The Noise at Work Regulations are increasingly relevant to employers as significant increases in the number of noise-induced hearing loss claims (NIHL) have been recorded since 2001, with 60,000 plus claims notifications in the UK alone in 2013. Some claims, when successful, can reach tens of thousands of pounds which is significant. Under the Regulations, employers are legally required to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to excessivenoise at work. There are six areas of focus:
- Assess the risks from noise exposure
- Act to reduce the risk to exposure to noise
- Provide staff with hearing protection if noise exposure cannot be reduced enough by using alternatives
- Ensure that the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
- Provide employees with regular and adequate information, training and guidance
- Implement a health surveillance programme where there is a risk to health.
What is an action level?
Under the Noise at Work Regulations, employers are required to take action when certain decibel levels are reached. This is called an action level. There are two main ones at which employers are required to take steps to reduce the harmful effects of noise on hearing.
Lower exposure action value. This is a daily or weekly average noise exposure level which is set at 80dB (decibels) and peak sound pressure of 135dB (decibels). When noise levels reach 80dB, you should provide your staff with appropriate information, training and make hearing protection available.
Upper exposure action value. This is set at a daily or weekly average noise exposure of 85dB (decibels) - peak sound pressure of 137dB (decibels). Anything above this figure, the employer is required to take reasonably practicable steps to reduce noise exposure, such as for example introducing engineering controls or other technical amendments. At this stage, if the noise cannot be controlled by introducing these measures then the use of hearing protection is also mandatory. The same applies whilst these measures are being planned or implemented.
Finally, the regulations talk about an exposure limit value of 87dB (decibels) - peak sound pressure of 140dB (decibels) above which no worker can be exposed. (This figure takes hearing protection into account).
So, do you have a problem with noise?
If you become aware that you have a noise problem (are people shouting when communicating on the shop floor for example?) or, equally, you need to prove that you do not have an issue with noise, you will need to get a competent person to measure the noise. We strongly suggest that you do so with a compliant sound level meter or a personal noise dosemeter to validate any measurements. These instruments will measure the sound pressure level (SPL) at the different places where an employee operates from and for the different tasks carried out during a working day. An average is calculated from these values and the time spent in each place or at each task. We recommend that you keep a record of these measurements for further consultation with as much information possible such as the name of the employee and the location where the measurement was taken in case of dispute or for audit purposes.
If you would like to know more about the Noise at Work Regulations or should you wish to purchase a compliant sound level meter or noise dosemeter, go to www.pulsarinstruments.com. Pulsar Instruments designs, manufactures and supplies compliant noise monitoring equipment designed for health and safety professionals, and can help you find the perfect noise at work monitoring solution for your business.
Call us now on 01723 518011 for advice or to enquire further about their products and services.