According to the Health and Safety Executive, around 17,000 people suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other hearing conditions each year as a result of excessive noise at work.
Thankfully, employees’ health and safety in the workplace is guaranteed by UK law. Employers are responsible for the well-being of their employees at all times. When it comes to hearing loss and noise in the workplace, employers must abide by the regulations laid out in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
This legislation works on two fronts. Firstly, it ensures employers have the responsibility to try and limit exposure to noise. And secondly, it dictates that employers are responsible for providing sufficient training and protective equipment to those exposed to noise.
What the regulations require:
As an employer, you are required to assess the noise in any workplace environment. If this assessment finds that noise levels are potentially dangerous in both the short and long term, then you need to take action in the form of noise reduction, or by providing and enforcing the use of protective equipment.
You need to ensure the working environment is within legal limits and that exposure times are not exceeded. Most importantly, you need to provide adequate training and instruction to employees, and carry out health surveillance in high-risk areas.
There are many sectors of industry and business where noise regulations are particularly important. Businesses with heavy machinery or manufacturing equipment are high risk. As are businesses that involve entertainment or music played at high volumes – including pubs, theatres and nightclubs.
Regulating noise levels:
There are set noise levels that require you to take action. These are between 80 and 85 decibels on an average daily or weekly level and between 135 and 137 decibels at times of peak sound pressure. Noise above the top limits of these ranges should never be exceeded in the workplace according to UK law.
If you find that levels in your workplace are falling between these limits, then you are required to take action in the form of improved protection, further training or by implementing a heath surveillance plan.
Do I have a noise problem?
If the noise is intrusive, if employees have to raise their voices to carry out normal conversations or if power tools are being used for more than half an hour each day, then you may need to take further action.
By failing to take action or recognise the hazards of excessive noise in the workplace you are potentially putting your staff and yourself in danger of hearing loss. Not only is hearing damage or deafness a serious personal concern for you and your staff, if you are found to have been negligent of the regulations then you may be legally liable to compensate staff, and will be guilty of breaking UK employment law.
This article was written by Chris Broughton, Internet Development Manager at Protec Direct, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of PPE and Workwear.