Occupational noise exposure (noise at work)
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Noise at work is usually assessed in terms of the noise exposure that is received by employees. Exposure is a combination of the noise level that a person is exposed to and the duration over which the exposure occurs. In order to determine an employee’s exposure, it is therefore necessary to establish their work pattern, how long they spend in different areas or engaged in different activities and the levels of noise that they are exposed to.
In order to reduce noise exposure, it is necessary to reduce the level of noise, the duration of exposure, or both. The most preferable method of reducing exposure is the reduction of noise at source. This has the benefit of protecting everyone who may be in the vicinity of the noise source and can also alleviate the need for personal hearing protection. It is also possible to reduce the duration of exposure by revising job rotations and ensuring that employees spend the minimum time possible in noisy environments.
As a last resort, Personal Hearing Protection (PHP) can be used. Click here for a description of typical types of PHP available.
In the United Kingdom, occupational noise exposure is legislated by the Noise at Work Regulations 2005, which are based on European Directive 2003/10/EC. These superseded the Noise at Work Regulations, 1999 on 6 April 2006. The main changes are as follows:
- the two action values for daily noise exposure have been reduced by 5 dB to 85 dB and 80 dB;
- there are now two action values for peak noise at 135 dB and 137 dB;
- there are new exposure limit values of 87 dB (daily exposure) and 140 dB (peak noise) which take into account the effect of wearing hearing protection and which must not be exceeded;
- there is a specific requirement to provide health surveillance where there is a risk to health.
Click here for a summary of the requirements of the Noise at Work Regulations 2005 which will open in a new window.
A full copy of the Noise at Work regulations is available on the Office of Public Sector Information website.
AECL has extensive experience of assessing and providing recommendations for occupational noise exposure and we have undertaken studies ranging from a single employee operating a single machine to large numbers of employees working in factories, construction sites, petrochemical and offshore installations.
We have detailed knowledge of many different industries, noisy equipment and activities and can provide detailed solutions to noise control. On large sites and premises, our approach is to consider the exposure of the entire work force and this allows a detailed cost/benefit analysis of various options to be undertaken. This approach can be complemented by the use of Dosimeters, where appropriate.
We can also determine which employees should wear Personal Hearing Protection (PHP) and assess the types of PHP available. We can also instruct both employers and employees in the risks associated with noise exposure and the correct use of PHP.
All our assessments are carried out by staff who hold the “Certificate of Competence in Workplace Noise Assessment” from the Institute of Acoustics. In the United Kingdom, we base our assessment and recommendations on the industry-sector guidance used by HSE inspectors and industry best practice.