Managing Noise in the Workplace

27th January 2020

Employees across the spectrum of industries experience noise in the workplace, but when it becomes excessive – it can put people at risk of injury and even death. Noise not only interferes with team communications and their awareness of surroundings leading to an increased likelihood of accidents, but can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage, such as tinnitus or deafness. The issue of noise is a non-visual safety hazard, which is more likely to be overlooked than visual hazards.

As an employer, it’s your legal responsibility to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work, as part of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. These regulations apply where work activities expose individuals to regular or a significant level of noise.

How do I know if there is a noise issue in my workplace?

In order to determine whether your workplace has an issue with noise and learn how to best handle it, a risk assessment should be carried out by someone who is competent to do so.

Generally, the risk assessment will involve taking readings and measurements of the noise exposure, as well as answering questions such as;

  • Do you work in an industry that is typically noisy?
  • Is the noise intrusive?
  • Do employees have to raise their voices to have a conversation?
  • Are employees exposed to sudden or impact-related noises?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, it’s likely that you have an issue with workplace noise that needs to be addressed immediately.

How to manage the risks of excessive noise

The first step is to determine if and how the noise can be removed. This may involve adapting the current processes or methods that are creating excessive noise, which could be the use of particular machinery. If this is not viable, then other options can include using quieter equipment, using damping or silencers, using sound barriers or screens, or using sound reflecting materials with absorbent surfaces.

Following this, you should:

  • Arrange audiometry as part of health surveillance for workers
  • Provide personal hearing protection if high levels of noise
  • Ensure the use of personal hearing protection equipment
  • Provide your employees with training, instruction and information

What is audiometry?

Audiometry is a health surveillance technique used to detect and reduce the risks posed by noise at work. For industries where noise is inevitable, it should be an integral part of your occupational health strategy. The process of audiometry involves hearing checks for all employees regularly exposed to high or combined levels, or for those particularly sensitive to noise.

Audiometry allows you to:

  • Prevent existing damage from getting worse
  • Detect early signs of hearing damage
  • Ensure employees understand the consequences of excessive noise
  • Identify whether control measures are working
  • Ensure the suitable PPE is being used, and used correctly

How David Barber Occupational Health can help

We can help you stay compliant with the appropriate regulations with our specially designed health surveillance services, including audiometry. If you would like to find out more about our audiometry services, or any other of our health surveillance services, please get in touch.

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