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Hearing loss laws in the workplace

photo shows a work area with noisy equipmentEmployees who work in environments where loud noise is prominent have a greater risk of developing hearing problems compared to those who work in other sectors. Employers must adhere to regulations when their workers are involved in such work.

Employers must follow the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 when employees are at risk of damaging their hearing from the work they do. This means employers should eliminate or reduce the risks of hearing problems caused by particular work.

They also have a duty to take action to reduce workers’ exposure to noise and ensure they provide the necessary personal hearing protection. As well as this, there are legal limits on noise exposure that must not be exceeded, and employers should make sure that the necessary equipment is maintained to monitor and control noise risks.

What constitutes a noise risk to employees?

There are many scenarios where employers should follow the regulations when it comes to the safety of their employees. If a particular job involves working in an environment where the noise is as intrusive as a vacuum cleaner or worse for most of the day then the correct steps should be taken to minimise the risk to employees.

If workers’ have to use raised voices to converse with each other when they are approximately 2 metres apart for part of their working day then this means there is a noise risk.

Employees who use noisy tools and machinery for more than half an hour each day should have the necessary protection in place to minimise their exposure to this noise.

Of course there are particular industries where employees will be exposed to noise, which is greater than that of the level set out by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, and these sectors should take important steps to reduce the risk of hearing loss to their employees.

Employees should take action when the levels of noise exposure exceed those set out by the law

The daily or weekly personal noise exposure level for the lower action value is 80 decibels with the upper action value being set at 85 decibels. Regardless of if the noise level is below the upper value and only at the lower value, employers must still take the necessary steps in order to reduce noise exposure.

Action should always be taken when employees are exposed to a level above the upper exposure action value by means of a planned programme of noise control.

Choosing equipment and machinery that will reduce the level of noise employees are exposed to

Before buying any equipment, employers should take into account noise and the likely risk to employees. Noise data is supplied by manufacturer’s and it’s important to follow this when choosing equipment, but caution must be taken as this data should only be used as a guide to personal noise exposure of an employee, as there will be other factors affecting employees exposure to noise as well.

Manufacturers must also abide by the law when it comes to making and supplying machinery. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, the machinery provided should be safe and without risk to health, be designed in a way that produces a minimal amount of noise and have the necessary information about the noise the machinery will produce.

With the necessary steps being taken by employers and manufacturers, the risk to employees will be significantly reduced and the exposure to noise as low as possible.

About the Author

This article was written on behalf of Protec Direct. Protec Direct are one of the leading suppliers of PPE & Workwear in the UK.

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