Noise is one of the physical environmental factors that affects the health of modern society. The term industrial noise is typically used in relation to environmental health and safety as opposed to mere nuisance noise. This is because sustained exposure to industrial noise can cause hearing damage.
Industrial noise is also sound associated with industrial processes, which could potentially cause damage to workers’ hearing. This damage results from short or long term exposure to high decibel levels, particularly amongst employees who experience sustained exposure, such as builders on construction sites or people working in the production line of a factory.
The equipment used in industrial processes often produces noise at decibel levels high enough to create health and safety concerns.
Measures for controlling industrial noise
Measures for controlling industrial noise are essential to protect the health of people working in such environments. Regulations which limit the noise workers are exposed to have come into force around the world.
In the United States, for example, the Occupational Noise Exposure Regulations specify that employers of industrial work must help protect employees’ hearing by limiting permissible noise exposure to 90dB(A) decibels for one eight-hour period although organisations such as NIOSH recommend a lower value of 85dB(A).
Here in the UK, similar noise level standards are endorsed. The Control at Work Regulations 2005 aims to ensure the hearing of workers are protected from excessive noise in their places of work. The hearing protection zone for workers in the UK is 85 decibels*. Once noise reaches 80 decibels, employers must provide workers with information and training. Employers must also assess the risk to employees’ health when noise levels reach 80 decibels*. The exposure limit for workers in the UK is 87 decibels*, which takes into account any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.
*Above values in decibels represent daily or weekly average exposure
Industrial noise measurement
In order to protect employees’ hearing from loud, industrial noise, accurate noise measurement needs to be made.
Two different instruments used to accurately measure noise exposure are the noise dosemeter and the sound level meter. Handheld Sound level meters enable employers to measure the pressure of sound levels and the acoustic intensity.
A noise dosemeter is similar to a sound level meter with the addition that it stores sound level measurements and then integrates these measurements over time. The noise dosemeter can provide an employer with an average noise exposure reading for a given duration, such as an 8-hour working day.
Many noise dosemeters, such as the doseBadge, are lightweight and cable-free, are usually worn on the body such as on the shoulder and don’t require a health and safety officer to be physically present to carry out the assessment. This makes noise dosemeters ideal for industries which operate shifts, such as building sites or in the entertainment sector where staff, such as security agents or orchestra members, operate in difficult to reach locations.
Employers’ responsibilities under the law
Once noise levels have been accurately determined at a place of work, if levels exceed the set limitations, according to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), an employer must adhere to the following conditions to protect employees from potential hearing damage or industrial deafness.
- Provide workers with hearing protectors and make sure they use them properly.
- Identify hearing protection zones, marking clearly where hearing protection is compulsory.
- Provide workers with information and training about wearing and maintaining hearing protectors.
- Inform employees of the likely noise exposure and the risk this level of noise creates.
- Notify workers about strategies being implemented to control the exposures and risks.
- Tell employees where they can obtain hearing protection.
- Inform workers about their duties under the Noise Regulations 2005.
- Give information about how to detect defects in noise control equipment and hearing protection.
- Advise workers about the health surveillance systems in place.
Aside the above, regular health checks should also be given to workers who are regularly exposed to the noise level standards.
To help protect workers from the effects of industrial noise, take a look at the Pulsar range of noise measuring monitors. Pulsar’s top of the range noise measuring equipment can help ensure industrial working environments are safe and protect the hearing of employees.
Download here Pulsar’s latest FREE Employers’ Guide: ‘5 Steps to Controlling Workplace Noise‘