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Can fireworks be responsible for noise-induced hearing loss?

Fireworks exploding over military trucks at a Fourth of July festival.

Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot. Bonfire Night is quickly approaching and firework display organisers up and down the country are getting ready for a night of brightly-lit skies and ear-piercingly loud noises.

As Bonfire Night will soon be upon us, we thought you might be interested in reading the following four fascinating facts about fireworks:

 

FACT: A typical Rocket can reach speeds of up to 150 mile an hour.

FACT: The largest ever single firework was a Shell. It measured one metre in width and travelled more than 300 metres into the air.

FACT: The largest number of fireworks let off in one go took place in August 2006 when over 56,000 rockets were launched concurrently at the National Firework Championships in Plymouth.

FACT: The Firecracker chain of fireworks have been measured amongst the loudest at 145.1dB (decibels).

We all love a great firework display. The burst of colour that is ascended into the night sky by the Catherine Wheel and the exhilarating shrill as a Rocket shoots into the air, it’s no wonder adults and children alike brave the cold and congregate round firework displays every November 5th.

However, if you are planning on working at a firework display this Bonfire Night, you should be concerned about the impact fireworks can have on your hearing.

Fireworks and hearing: not always a good combination

According to Hear-It.org, fireworks can affect your hearing. The sound output created by fireworks in some countries can reach 130dB – 175dB (decibels).   To put this in context, the noise of a jet taking off is around 130dB (decibels).

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 in the UK stipulate the level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is 85dB(A) (daily or weekly average exposure). The level at which employers must assess the risk to employees’ hearing health and provide them with training and information is 80 decibels. The Noise Regulations also stipulates an exposure limit value of 87dB(A) decibels, above which employees must not be exposed.

As we can see, the average noise level created by a firework display far exceeds the Noise Regulations’ noise exposure limits.

According to hear-it.org:

“Exposure to loud sounds such as fireworks can lead to temporary or permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.”

The hearing awareness organisation advises to stand well away from the firework display as the further back you are, the lower the decibel level and the less likely the noise will affect your hearing. However, if you are working as a steward or are involved in the ignition of fireworks at a display, standing well back is not usually an option.

In such circumstances, you should think about using some form of hearing protection such as earmuffs.

“If you are involved in setting off fireworks or are watching nearby, both roll-down foam plus and headphones are strongly recommended for maximum hearing protection,” audiologist Nathan Williams advises.

The Legal duties placed on organisers

In recent years, complaints about the noise and disturbance fireworks create have risen significantly. There are now specific regulations in the UK, known as the Fireworks Regulations 2004 that stipulate certain laws and rules concerning firework displays in the UK.

If you are an organiser of a large firework display, you may want to download Pulsar’s FREE Guide to Controlling Workplace Noise. This easy-to-read guide summarises the duties placed on employers in relation to protecting the hearing of employees in a work environment. It also explains about sound level meters and personal noise dosemeters as the most common options for measuring noise levels accurately.

Measuring the level of noise your firework display generates can help ensure the firework event is run as responsibly as possible.  Take a look at Pulsar’s Quantifier Range of Sound Level Meters, which are suitable for both industrial and environmental noise applications.  If you any queries on this article or the products mentioned, please ring us on 01723 518011.

Pulsar Instruments: First for noise measurement since 1969

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