Working in waste management and recycling can be hazardous and operators need to remain vigilant. Importantly, there are hidden dangers to this work which need considering as part of a workplace health and safety strategy. Employees who work in waste management and recycling may be at risk in their day to day activity as they are exposed to high levels of noise from multiple sources. Activities such as glass collection or recovery and disposal of heavy materials can lead to irreversible hearing loss if not controlled or reduced effectively.
This blog gives you general advice on duties placed on employers when it comes to noise control in waste management and recycling activities. It is a good place to start if you are embarking on a noise safe strategy, so keeping abreast with occupational updates and legal duties are essential.
Noise control in waste management and recycling activities
Noise-induced hearing loss in a waste management and recycling environment is a real and common health risk. As an employer or the person responsible for the health and safety of others, you are required to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. The Regulations which have been in place ten years now provide clear direction and state that:
- excessive noise should be eliminated wherever possible;
- exposure to noise at source should be controlled using engineering means so far as is reasonably practicable (such as enclosure and the use of noise-dampening materials);
- adequate protective equipment (such as ear defenders) should be provided.
Noise in glass collection is quite unique. However, there are solutions out there to deal with this specific issue. For example, noise-dampening materials in some cases can help reduce noise emissions by up to a half (about 3dB or decibels). This is significant. However, used on their own, they do not reduce noise emissions to levels where hearing will not be damaged, without additional action being taken. The 3dB rule is an important one in acoustics, if you are not familiar with it, please read a blog ‘understanding the 3dB rule’ for additional background information.
Detailed information on glass collection is available. The following document was produced by the HSE in consultation with the waste industry and safety and health (WISH) forum. Click on the link if you want to learn more.
Noise in materials recovery/reclamation facilities (MRFs)
Most MRFs have processes which emit noise levels above the 80dB(A) and 85dB(A) levels at which employers are required to take action under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005). If you are not familiar with these key noise action levels, here is a summary:
You can read more about noise action levels and exposure limit values in a previous blog published by our company.
The following identifies the areas where the equipment in a MRF is likely to expose employees to excessive noise levels, the likely exposure and suggested methods of controlling the risk.
When to measure noise?
This is an important aspect of your strategy. Bearing in mind that you may have to defend a claim at some stage for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), you cannot afford to rely on risk assessment alone. A vast array of noise measurement products exists on the market such as sound level meters or personal noise dosemeters. You should only select tested and compliant technology that will ensure that your measurements are accurate.
For additional information on noise measurement technology to help collect noise data in a work environment such as in waste management and recycling activities and complement any risk assessments, consult our website.
We have also produced a FREE summary guide for employers on controlling workplace noise which sets out duties under the Regulations. Download your copy here.
This blog appeared first on Pulsar Instruments’ website on 15/06/2015.
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