In preparation for Noise Action Week, we have compiled some noise at work advice for employers.
How Noise Action Week Aims to Reduce Noise Risks in the Workplace
This week, Noise Action Week is taking place between 19th and 24th May. Noise Action Week aims to raise awareness of noise risks in the workplace and residential areas, ensuring that local authority noise teams, housing providers, mediation services, health professionals and all other concerned businesses know what solutions are available to them. Many of these are very simple, but unfortunately, noise at work advice for employers can all too often be overlooked.
During Noise Action Week, Pulsar Instruments is encouraging employers to consider the noise produced in their work environment and raising awareness of the services available to help control the problem.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Claims on the Rise
Hearing loss in the workplace was relatively unreported until recently when news releases from insurance companies began to emerge following a sudden rise in claims. A significant number of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims has been recorded since 2001, with 60,000 claims notifications within the UK alone in 2013 (Source: Institute of Actuaries). The majority of these are made by employees against their employers and relate to deafness and hearing problems that have come about as a result of noise risks in the workplace.
Excessive noise can damage health in a number of ways. For example, exposure to loud noise in short spurts can cause just as much harm to our hearing as moderately loud noise over a long period of time. As a result, it can take some time for workers to fully experience the long-term damage caused by noise risks in the workplace. Often, they have already left the company by that point.
It is important to remember that the effects of noise-induced hearing loss are permanent. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. It has been reported that over a million Britons are exposed to potentially dangerous levels of noise at work every day and that 1 in 7 people in the UK are either deaf or hard of hearing.
Raising Awareness of Noise Risks in the Workplace
The rise in deafness claims has helped raise awareness of the dangers of noise risks in the workplace where these are not controlled properly. However, although the law does protect employees against noise-induced hearing loss, the severity of it is often still overlooked.
Noise at Work Advice for Employers
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers six key pieces of noise at work advice for employers in order to minimise noise risks in the workplace.
- Carry out regular risk assessments, using an industry-approved sound level meter to monitor noise levels and discussing potential hazards with staff
- Take appropriate action to reduce any risks caused by excessive exposure to noise
- Where noise levels cannot be reduced to a safe level, provide employees with suitable hearing protection
- Do not exceed legal limits on noise exposure (80 – 87dB, depending on the nature of the noise)
- Provide staff with adequate info, instruction and training on noise hazards and how to minimise the risks
- Where there is a risk to health, health surveillance should be carried out on a regular basis
Employers are urged to comply with the necessary ‘legal limits’ and appoint, train and equip designated health and safety staff to monitor and manage noise levels around their premises. It is also their responsibility to decide whether further action is required and, if so, to determine whether or not their employees are at risk.
Once a strategy is in place, it will need to be reviewed regularly. If in future new equipment comes into use or the company moves or rearranges its physical layout, every employee’s exposure to noise risks in the workplace will need to be re-evaluated.
For staff whose jobs involve moving around in difficult-to-reach locations during a working day, personal noise measurement devices can be used. Usually worn somewhere on the body, e.g. the shoulder, these mini monitors are able to take accurate readings of the noise levels to which workers are exposed every day or throughout the course of a shift.
There are a number of general warning signs to look out for when hearing is potentially at risk. If people need to shout at each other in order to communicate, this is a good indicator that noise levels are probably too high.
Although we all experience some kind of noise during a working day, it is important to understand that some workplaces are noisier than others and that employers must, therefore, carry out the necessary precautions.
If you would like further noise at work advice for employers or wish to purchase industry-standard sound monitoring equipment for health and safety professionals, browse our website or ring 01723 518011