Over 1 million employees in the United Kingdom are exposed to levels of noise which puts their hearing at risk, according to statistics by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). What’s more, approximately 17,000 people in Britain suffer from hearing loss, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions due to being exposed to excessive noise at work.
In April 2006 the Control of Noise at Work Regulations came into force in the United Kingdom. The objective of the regulations is to ensure the hearing of workers is protected from excessive levels of noise in the workplace.
If you are a health and safety manager, an owner or director of a company in an industry that is at ‘high risk’ of excessive noise or are an employee who is concerned about work-related noise, take a look at some of the key messages to remember about noise at work and how to protect your hearing.
1. Work-related hearing loss is preventable
It is important to remember that hearing damage caused at work is preventable. However, once it has gone it won’t come back. As the Trade Union Congress (TUC) writes in the Working in a Noisy Environment Guide:
“Hearing loss is easily preventable either by reducing the noise level or, if this is not possible, providing hearing protection.”
2. Noise-related hearing loss is a significant occupational disease
With more than 17,000 people in Britain suffering from tinnitus, deafness or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to high levels of noise in the workplace, hearing loss at work continues to be a significant occupational disease.
3. Tinnitus can be caused by high levels of noise in the workplace
According to a review of the current state of knowledge on tinnitus in relation to noise exposure and hearing loss compiled by the HSE:
“Four studies have shown that the prevalence of tinnitus in workers exposed to noise at work is significantly greater than in workers not exposed to noise.”
4. Various factors contribute to noise-based hearing damage
The factors that contribute to hearing damage are not only related to actual noise levels but also how long people are exposed to the noise for, whether its daily exposure and over how many years.
The HSE’s noise exposure calculators can help you work out what your daily and weekly noise exposures are and to estimate the performance of hearing protection.
5. Making an assessment of noise levels
It is important for every employer to identify whether they have a problem related to noise levels in the first place. One way to make a noise level assessment is by using a compliant sound level meter. From sound level meters to personal noise dosemeters and noise-activated warning signs, there is a wide range of noise testing equipment on the market designed specifically for health and safety managers to meet the demands of noise standards, guidelines and regulations.
6. Technical and organisational means to protect workers
One of the most effective and efficient ways to help protect employees’ hearing is by making technical and organisational changes at your place of work. Making changes, for example, to processes, reducing the amount of time individual workers spend in noisy areas and reducing vibration, will all significantly control noise levels and noise-related hearing damage.
7. The importance of health surveillance
Health surveillance and hearing checks should not be underestimated. Such checks are vital in detecting and responding to the early signs of damage.
If you are an employer or a health and safety manager, take a look at some of the ways mapped out by the HSE you can help protect your workers from noise-related hearing damage.
8. There are many cost-effective ways to protect yourself and co-workers
From using quieter equipment and introducing a low-noise purchasing policy for machinery and equipment, to avoiding metal-on-metal impacts with abrasion-resistant rubber, there are many cost-effective ways to help protect the hearing of yourself and your colleagues in the workplace, the trick is knowing about them.
To find how to protect your workplace from noise-induced hearing loss, take a look at the HSE’s guide how to reduce noise at work.
If you are looking for high-quality noise monitoring equipment to measure the severity of the noise in your workplace, noise meter experts Pulsar has nearly 50 years’ experience providing the top of the range noise monitoring equipment for measuring sound.
Download here our latest Employers’ Guide: ‘5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise‘. It’s FREE!