Looking through the NEBOSH National General Certificate course book recently, it surprised us to find that issues of noise at work and the control of noise only featured on 6 pages in a book containing well over 600 pages.
Working with health and safety professionals over the years, we recognise that their remit of responsibilities in health and safety is vast and that safeguarding hearing may not be top priority. However, actively looking after workers’ hearing makes good business sense. Here are a few reasons why assessing noise levels at work can make a difference to your bottom line.
The business case for safeguarding hearing
Reduce Risk to injury
Exposure to sustained and high levels of noise disrupts, distracts, or detracts from regular functioning. This is a common problem in industries such as construction, manufacturing and engineering where long term exposure to loud or persistent noises combined with poor hearing protection has the biggest impact on health and productivity.
Someone repeatedly exposed to this type of environment is likely to be affected at some point with the following:
- Loss of concentration
- Tension and headaches
- High blood pressure
- Insomnia, tiredness and stress
- Social isolation
In turn, this will increase the likelihood of workers to suffer a physical accident in the workplace. Any lost day due to illness or workplace injury will have a financial impact on your business. The cost of replacing and training a new member of staff, even temporarily, is not cheap. You do not want to incur any production delays.
A positive health and safety culture relies on a strict risk management regime. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) in the UK outline six key steps for employers:
- Assess the noise risk using a sound meter
- Take action to reduce the noise exposure that presents that risk
- Provide staff with hearing protection if required
- Ensure that noise does not exceed legal limits
- Provide staff with sufficient information and training
- Carry out regular hearing surveillance
By having adequate safety measures in place, effective monitoring systems and being seen to invest in safeguarding hearing, is going to boost workers’ morale and your productivity.
Save on insurance and legal costs
Many of our customers contact us when they have been served with a claim for noise-induced hearing loss. Very often one individual will take civil action against an employer and this may be followed by others in the same department taking similar action thus adding to the overall cost to the business. If you are found to be in breach of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) you may be liable to pay compensation between £3,000 and £5,000 to an individual suffering from either minor hearing loss and/or tinnitus with additional payments to cover legal representation. For any insured costs, you are likely to claim also on your employers and public liability insurance which will result in higher premiums. Clearly, it is not worth the risk. Prevention here is better than cure.
Safeguard your reputation
Your reputation is everything and you should want to preserve a good corporate image at all costs. This is especially relevant in challenging economic times and if you operate in a competitive industry. Court cases are often reported in the press and with the advent of social media, your company name is likely to suffer further by being exposed in the public domain. Why risk losing business for lack of safety systems?
Final advice on safeguarding hearing to bear in mind
Your priority should be to reduce exposure to noise – wearing hearing protection should be the last resort.
- Be ‘noise aware’. When purchasing machinery, investigate noise data from the supplier before making your decision
- If you suspect you have a noise problem, assess and measure exposure using a compliant sound level meter and/or personal noise dosimeter
- Move noisy machinery into areas where there are no workers, or few workers
- Consider a sound-insulating enclosure for noisy equipment
- Where an enclosure is not possible, reduce noise by other engineering means
- Where noise levels still exceed 85dB(A), ensure workers wear hearing protection within the designated and clearly marked zones.
- Consider introducing job rotation or providing a quiet area to reduce exposure
- Review the effectiveness of measures implemented and noise control programme regularly
This blog aims to provide you with an overview why you should safeguard the hearing of your employees by assessing the noise they are exposed to. If you haven’t already subscribed, sign up now for regular updates that answer your questions on workplace noise and the many solutions to control of noise to help you to stay abreast of emergency information, regulations and technology around noise measurement.
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