Noise Exposure in the Workplace

A noisy workplace can create physical and psychological stress. It can also reduce productivity.

Repeated exposure to loud noises can lead to tinnitus or even hearing loss in the workplace. Tinnitus is when someone experiences ringing in one or both of their ears.

HSE reported that around 20,000 employees experienced occupational hearing loss in the UK.

Keep in mind that young people are also at risk of hearing loss. However, many young people will not realise their hearing is affected until they are older.

That is why it is crucial for Health and Safety Managers to adhere to noise control regulations in their workplaces. They must make sure their organisation fully complies with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.

This sets out the following requirements that employers must adhere to:

  • They must assess the levels of noise in their workplace
  • They must not exceed the legal limits of noise exposure in their workplaces
  • They must reduce occupational noise exposure by implementing the necessary steps
  • They must provide their workers with proper hearing protection, especially if they cannot reduce the noise in the workplace
  • They must make sure their workers receive training, instruction and information
  • Health surveillance is necessary when there is a health risk

Is a Risk Assessment Required?

A risk assessment is required if you work in a noisy environment, like working at an airport, highway repair, or construction.

However, some employers do not even know that they are required to conduct a risk assessment. If you want to know if you are required to conduct a risk assessment, here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. Are there explosive sounds, such as cartridge-operated tools and pneumatic drills, in your workplace?
  2. Do your workers have to regularly shout when talking to a person standing 2m away?
  3. Do your workers have to use noisy equipment for 30 or more minutes per day?
  4. Is there intrusive noise for most of the working day?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then you have to deal with noise in your workplace. You can implement the most effective strategies to reduce noise in your workplace.

Action Levels and Limit Values

It is vital to know how loud is too loud before you conduct a risk assessment.

Employers are required to take the necessary actions at specific levels of noise exposure in the current Government legislation.

Noise levels is measured in decibels (dB). And it is expressed as C-weighted and A-weighted. The A-weight sound level is the average of A-weighted sound levels over 24 hours or a week. Employers can use C-weighted peak sound pressure readings to monitor maximum daily noise.

Employers should look out for values, such as 80 dB, 85 dB and 87 dB, with the following peak readings. How loud is 85 decibels? It’s a noise level equivalent to that of a food blender or a noisy restaurant.

Exposure Limit Values

87 dB daily or weekly noise exposure
140 dB peak sound pressure level

Upper Action Values

137 dB peak sound pressure level
85 dB daily or weekly noise exposure

Lower Action Values

80 dB daily or weekly noise exposure
135 dB peak sound pressure level

It is essential for employers to know the importance of these limits. Why? Because they help employers to determine the steps that they must take to remedy the situation.

The Risk Assessment

If you want to control exposure to noise in your workplace, then you have to conduct a Risk Assessment.

Here is how to conduct a Risk Assessment:

  • Identify noise hazards in your workplace
  • Measure levels of exposure, including the action levels and limit values
  • Records the findings of your assessment