Employers are duty bound by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 to remove or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work.
If any employee is likely to be exposed to noise at or above an upper exposure action value, the employer must 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 personal hearing protectors, which is appropriate to the activity.
A noise risk assessment is required if any employee is likely to be exposed at or above the lower action value. Typical situations would be:
- The noise is intrusive for most of the working day. Examples would be a busy road or a vacuum cleaner.
- For at least part of the day you need to use a raised voice to have a conversation with someone two metres away.
- Noisy power tools or machinery are used for more than half an hour a day.
- Working in noisy industries such as construction, road repair, engineering or manufacturing.
- There are noises from impacts such as hammering, drop forging, and pneumatic impact tools.
- There are noises from explosive sources, such as cartridge-operated tools, detonators or guns.
The employer shall 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. A formal programme of measures to reduce noise exposure is required to be established and implemented whenever an employee's exposure to noise is likely to exceed the upper exposure action values (hearing protection does not count as a control measure).
When or while a risk remains an employer must make hearing protection available upon request to any employee likely to be exposed above a lower action value, and provide hearing protection to any employee likely to be exposed above the upper action value.
The Regulation Action Values
Loud noise is an occasional part of everyday life. Permanent hearing damage results when the noise is too high, for too long, too often. The risk from noise at work is indicated by the daily personal noise exposure level or LEP,d. This is the total noise dose in the working day. This may be made up of periods at different sound levels but it is expressed as the equivalent steady level that would give the same dose in eight hours.
Very high level sound such as explosions, gun fire and some machinery may pose a risk of instantaneous damage even when the sound is infrequent or very short duration. This risk is assessed against the C-weighted peak level of the sound. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations give action and limit values for the above risks which are trigger points for action to protect employees.
||Daily personal noise exposure level LEP,d dBA
||C-weighted peak level LCpeak dBC
|Lower action value
|Upper action value
The action values take no account of hearing protection use, but the limit values do take account of the attenuation of any hearing protection used.
Actions required when the action values are exceeded
Actions when at and above the lower action value
- Make a noise risk assessment.
- Provide staff training on the risks and how to keep safe.
- Implement controls to reduce the level and duration of exposures.
- Consult with staff on workplace changes.
- Make hearing protection available.
Additional actions when above the upper action value
- Produce an action plan of control measures that details the how, when and who is responsible.
- Mark out areas where exposures are likely to exceed the upper action values as hearing protection zones. Hearing protection must be worn in these zones.
- Provide regular health surveillance to employees at risk (this would usually include everyone regularly exposed above the upper action value).
The limit value
If it is exceeded then you must prevent any reoccurrence immediately.
Source: Health and Safety Executive: The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
Health and Safety Authority: Guide to the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007.
Liz Brueck MIOA, Senior Noise Specialist, Engineering & Personal Safety Unit, Health & Safety Laboratory