The Noise at Work Regulations (2005) place a number of requirements on both the Employer and Employee. These requirements are summarised below:
Regulation 4 defines the exposure limit values and action values as follows:
4 – (1) The lower exposure action values are –
- (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 dB (A-weighted); and
- (b) a peak sound pressure 135 dB (C-weighted)
4 – (2) The upper exposure action values are –
- (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85 dB (A-weighted); and
- (b) a peak sound pressure of 137 dB (C-weighted)
4 – (3) The exposure limit values are –
- (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87 dB (A-weighted); and
- (b) a peak sound pressure of 140 dB (C-weighted)
4 – (4) Where the exposure of an employee to noise varies markedly from day to day, an employer may use weekly personal noise exposure in place of daily personal noise exposure for the purpose of compliance with these Regulations.
4 – (5) In applying the exposure limit values in paragraph (3), but not in applying the lower and upper exposure action values in paragraphs (1) and (2), account shall be taken of the protection given to the employee by any hearing protectors provided by the employer in accordance with regulation 7(2).
Regulation 6 places a general requirement on the employer to ensure that risk from the exposure of his employees to noise is either eliminated at source or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable.
Furthermore, if an employee is exposed to noise at or above an upper exposure action value, the employer shall reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable by establishing and implementing a programme of organisational and technical measures, excluding the provision of hearing protectors, which is appropriate to the activity.
Furthermore, the employer shall ensure that his employees are not exposed to noise above an exposure limit value.
Regulation 7 relates to the provision of hearing protection. Where an employee is likely to be exposed to noise above a lower action value, the employer shall make hearing protection available on request.
Where an employer is unable by other means to reduce the exposure of an employee to below an upper exposure action value, the employer shall provide personal hearing protection to the employee. In accordance with Regulation 6, the exposure of the employee, taking into account the hearing protection being worn, must be below the exposure limit values.
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If in any area of the workplace an employee is likely to be exposed to noise at or above an upper exposure action value, the employer must designate and demarcate the area as an Hearing Protection Zone, restrict access to the zone (where justified and practicable) and shall ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, that no employee enters the area unless he is wearing personal hearing protectors.
Furthermore, the selection of personal hearing protectors made available shall eliminate the risk or reduce it to as low a level as is reasonably practicable and shall be made after consultation with the employees concerned or their representatives.
Regulation 8 places requirements on both employers and employees relating to the maintenance and use of equipment.
The employer is required to ensure that anything provided under the Regulations, other than personal hearing protection provided under regulation 7(1) is fully and properly used and that anything provided under the Regulations is maintained in an efficient state, working order and good repair.
Employees are required to make full and proper use of personal hearing protection provided in compliance with regulation 7(2) and of any other control measures provided and are required to report any defects in personal hearing protection to their employer.
Regulation 9 requires health surveillance to be undertaken “if the risk assessment indicates that there is a risk to the health of his employees who are, or a liable to be, exposed to noise”. The Health Surveillance programme is required to include testing of employees’ hearing. The requirements of the programme, including record keeping are outlined in Regulation 9.
Further guidance on the need for Health Surveillance is provided in the HSE publication “Controlling noise at work – The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Guidance on Regulations”. This guidance advises that there may be a risk to health where exposure is above the upper exposure action value. Where exposure is between the lower and upper exposure action values, or where employees are only occasionally exposed above the upper exposure action values, health surveillance should only be provided where an individual employee is found to be particularly sensitive to noise. This may be from past medical history, audiometric testing, other independent assessments or a history of exposure to noise levels exceeding the upper exposure action values. A few individuals may also indicate a family history of becoming deaf early on in life.
Regulation 10 stipulates the requirements for Information, instruction and training. Such training should be provided to employees who are likely to be exposed to noise at or below the lower exposure action value.
Employees shall be informed of the nature of risks from exposure to noise, the measures taken to comply with the Regulations and the exposure limit and action values. They shall also be informed of the results of the risk assessment, and measures taken, the availability of personal hearing protectors, their correct use and how to identify any defects. They shall also be informed of any entitlement to health surveillance, safe working practices to minimise exposure to noise and the collective results of any health surveillance undertaken.
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