All quiet on the workplace-noise front: keeping employees protected from the risk of noise induced hearing loss

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Source: Casella

It’s a decade since the ‘Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005’ was passed before coming into force in April 2006, putting in place a more stringent cap on exposure limits. So how has this impacted on workers exposed to high levels of noise in the workplace, what are the actual methods and equipment used to ensure that noise is adequately monitored and controlled and what are the consequences for those employers not playing by the rules?

The most effective way to both protect workers from noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) and employers from the possibility of being sued, is through a regular risk assessment. For those workers involved in high risk sectors such as construction, mining and a wide range of manufacturing industries, such adherence to their occupational health and wellbeing is an essential part of avoiding the possibility of NIHL and tinnitus. But how simple is it to gauge noise exposure and assess risk? And at a time when every purchase is being scrutinised, is such equipment a reliable and worthwhile investment? With NIHL still the biggest, yet avoidable, global cause of occupational disease (in 2007/8, 21,000 individuals in the UK alone were suffering from hearing problems brought about by their work) it looks like it is a very sound investment indeed.

Fortunately, suppliers such as Casella provide easy to operate and accurate hand-held sound level meters for area noise surveys and bodily worn noise dosimeters which measure personal exposure both solutions enabling operators to identify individual risk so that preventative action can be taken. And going beyond the individual and localised environment are site boundary monitoring instruments that provide a clear environmental picture of noise levels that may impact on the wider community.

With 22 million employees in Europe and 30 million in the US still being exposed to dangerously high noise levels, investing in noise monitoring is a critical step in the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce. Thus proving the investment in prevention is always better than the cost of cure.

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