Noise at Work: Frequently asked questions
The answers you need by leading noise measurement products’ manufacturer
Controlling Noise at Work: Frequently asked questions
Pulsar Instruments are the experts when it comes to noise at work measurement. The company was formed 45 years ago and, over the years, the team has answered numerous phone calls or met new and existing customers at Trade shows, professional meetings or in their place of work to answer their queries.
Very often, a call is received by our team from a safety manager recently appointed with the responsibility of noise measurement and sourcing monitoring equipment with little guidance. In other cases, a business owner has been notified of a problem with noise and is keen to have it monitored and kept under control.
We summarise here (in layman’s terms) the questions that we often get asked:
About the Control of Noise at Work Regulations – what are they?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) replaces the Noise at Work Regulations 1989. The aim of the Regulations is to transpose the Directive 2003/10/EC of the European Parliament on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of employees to the risk arising from noise (physical agents).
What does the Law requires of me?
Behind the Regulations is a desire to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work.
It requires that you undertake a risk assessment and, depending on the level of risk, that you:
- Reduce the noise exposure
- Provide your employees with personal hearing protection
- Ensure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
- Maintain and ensure the use of equipment you provide to control noise risks
- Provide your employees with information, instruction and training and
- Conduct health surveillance (monitor workers’ hearing ability)
My business is noisy, how do I know for sure that my employees are at risk?
If you operate a noisy business, and your workers are exposed to continuous or loud sudden ‘bangs’ from tools such as pneumatic drills or punch presses, permanent loss of hearing can happen. High noise levels can also lead to higher risks of accidents as they can interfere with communication, concentration and safety alerts. As a guide, if it is difficult to hear and conduct a normal conversation at a distance of 2m from the person talking, it is likely that noise levels are higher than the permitted levels e.g. above 80dB decibels. The only way you can be sure whether your employees are at risk or not is to measure the noise level. Do not leave it to chance!
What are the main causing factors noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL?)
There are two things to bear in mind here:
- The level of noise
- The length of time of exposure
When do I need to take action?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) refers to action level values and there are three main decibel levels that you must keep in mind at all times:
- Lower exposure action values: daily or weekly exposure of 80dB decibels / peak Sound Pressure 135dB
- Upper exposure action values: daily or weekly exposure of 85dB decibels / peak Sound Pressure 137dB
- Exposure limit values which must not be exceeded: daily or weekly exposure of 87dB decibels / peak sound pressure of 140dB.
Fear not, help is at hand!
Modern, compliant sound level meters from reputable manufacturers are able to provide you with all the measurement parameters in the format that you need should you be asked to prove that you are following the regulations. Thanks to technological advances, all required parameters can now be shown automatically and simultaneously on a sound level meter’s display when you make a measurement to make the process much easier. Acoustics is a complex subject. To find out more about the most common acoustic terms used in the industry, please refer to our acoustic glossary. We also offer training on basic acoustic theory and noise measurement if you want to further your knowledge in this area, so please do not hesitate to get in touch for more information.
Should I tell workers if noise levels are exceeded?
Yes, absolutely. Employees and their representatives must be informed if:
- Noise levels are likely to exceed 85dB and the likely risk of damage to hearing
- Noise measurements are being taken and how the results will impact on the workforce
- Action plans are put in place to reduce noise levels
How often should I carry noise level checks?
Noise measurements should be undertaken at regular intervals especially if the business is implementing changes to the work patterns or introducing new equipment. In any case, your workplace noise assessments should reflect the amount of noise that the employee is exposed to over a working day or shift. There are two methods to help you do this. Firstly, there is the ‘hand-held method’ which uses a sound level meter. This means physically taking the measurements and recording findings. Secondly, you can opt for the ‘worn method’ such as a with a personal noise dosimeter. This device is worn on a person’s shoulder recording the noise and remains during a shift. Please note if the workplace remains unchanged, it is still recommended that you check noise levels every two years.
What else can I do?
Ensure that your staff are trained and receive adequate information about:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Company policy and measures in place to comply with the Noise at Work regulations
- Any results of noise assessments carried out and their significance
- Correct use of hearing protectors
- Reporting procedure in place for suspected noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)
- Health surveillance programmes in place such as audiometric testing
Control, eliminate, substitute, and introduce personal protective equipment (PPE)!
- Remove the source of noise if possible
- Control the noise (enclose, isolate, re-design)
- Introduce PPE equipment (ear plugs, headphones) if it is reasonably practicable.
Who can carry out noise measurements in the workplace?
It needs to be a competent person. This is a person that is sufficiently trained and experienced in this subject and has the
- Knowledge and understanding of the Control of Noise at Work regulations (2005)
- Ability to use compliant measurement equipment
- Skills to record and interpret the results obtained in accordance with the regulations
- Aptitude to make recommendations on how to reduce noise levels and risk to hearing
If you are new to noise measurement and would like to find out more about the Noise at Work Regulations, noise awareness training and how to procure compliant noise measurement products from our company, please contact Pulsar Instruments today.