Hearing loss is a frequent complaint which can affect individuals’ quality of life significantly. We all know someone who suffers from it and maybe take it as something that can be expected depending on the age or the type of work carried out over a long career. Noise-induced hearing loss is often ignored and remains a forgotten industrial disease despite continued efforts to raise the awareness. The worst thing about it is that it does not need to be the case as it is totally preventable. As a business owner, it is your legal responsibility to ensure that your employees are safe in their working environment. This also includes visitors to your premises, such as customers, suppliers and the general public. Here we look at the reasons why you should be prioritising noise monitoring at work.
At Pulsar we have worked with business owners and safety professionals for nearly 50 years. We know how busy you are and we are very much aware that noise monitoring is only one of the many tasks that need to be implemented. However, ensuring that your business is a legally safe working environment will have many benefits such as ensuring the wellbeing of your personnel, improve morale and show that you comply with your insurance policy requirements.
Are you prioritising noise monitoring at work?
1) Understand the process of noise-induced hearing loss
Overexposure to loud noise levels day after day, regardless of the source, will lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The loss of hearing does not recover if the noise exposure is stopped, and tinnitus, a continuous ‘ringing’ or ‘hissing’ sound perceived by the brain of a person suffering from hearing loss may develop as a result. Although it is sometimes considered to be a problem confined to the ‘noisy’ manufacturing industries, many other working environments have potential for creating loss of hearing.
Top 8 industries where hearing is at risk:
- Armed forces
- Music and Entertainment
- Airport ground staff
- Firefighters and emergency services
Why not explore the subject further by reading a previous blog we wrote about it here.
If your business uses transport vehicles such as lorries, vans or cars, you should ensure also that the drivers are included in any noise monitoring along with the rest of the workforce. Lone workers are often forgotten but are equally at risk from overexposure to loud noise.
2) Key personnel to monitor noise at work
A person within the organisation should be appointed with the responsibility of monitoring noise and should receive adequate training. A point of contact makes it easy for employees to know who to consult if they have any queries, clarifies areas of responsibilities and, importantly, has the power to enforce any policy relevant to noise.
3) Ensure you know your legal responsibilities
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations in the UK set legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. The limits currently in place are based on a worker’s time-weighted averaged over an 8 hour day or shift. The legal limit in the UK and in the EU is set at 87dB [decibels] ‘A’ weighted over an 8 hour period and a peak level of 140dB [decibels] ‘C’ weighted also over an 8 hour period. Ideally, noise levels should be kept below 80dB(A) to minimise the risk of noise-induced hearing loss.
4) Get the right monitoring equipment to help
You should invest in the right monitoring technology such as a hand held sound level meter or personal noise dosemeter or a combination of both. Buy from a trustworthy and long-standing manufacturer. It will give you the reassurance that your instrument will not only withstand the test of time but will be compliant with the criteria that you require. It is worth noting that an inaccurate reading of as little as 3 decibels can expose workers to up to four times the legal levels of noise. For example, a worker exposed over many years to a level of 86dB(A) for 8 hours has four times the risk of suffering noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) as someone working at 80dB(A).
Choose a manufacturer also that offers face-to-face or telephone support, product training and after sales services.
5) Conduct regular reviews
It is important to review any monitoring activities on a regular basis and especially if significant organisational changes such as the introduction of new equipment, personnel or work methods or new processes have been introduced. It is also the case if a sufficient period of time has elapsed since the previous review.
So, are you prioritising noise monitoring at work?
For additional information, check out Pulsar Instruments’ large range of sound level meters, noise dosemeters and acoustic calibrators to enable health and safety professionals monitor noise at work. Alternatively, please ring us on 01723 518011 for advice.
- Some FAQs on industrial deafness
- The causes of noise-induced hearing loss
- How a sound level meter will help you measure noise at work