Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Noise at work can cause hearing loss. This may be temporary, but continued exposure, or short term exposure to very high noise can cause permanent damage.

Other problems occurring to exposure to high levels noise include tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears). Also, it must be remembered that working in a noisy environment makes communication difficult and may even mean people cannot hear warnings and alarms.

Noise levels are measured in Decibels (dB). Limits are set for short and long term exposure.

Covered by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. They require employers to:
* Assess the risks to their employees from noise at work;
* Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
* Provide employees with hearing protection if the noise exposure cannot be reduced enough using other methods;
* Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
* Provide employees with information, instruction and training;
* Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Legal limits are defined in three categories
1. Lower exposure action values:
– daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
– peak sound pressure of 135 dB;

2. Upper exposure action values:
– daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
– peak sound pressure of 137 dB.

3. Maximum exposure limit values (that must not be exceeded):
– daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB;
– peak sound pressure of 140 dB.

Key element of the regulations is that noise levels should be reduced before considering hearing protection.

Employees have a duty to co-operate with their employers in protecting hearing, including wearing hearing protection provided.


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