Noise in the workplace is identified as something which causes a safety hazard to staff.
From vacuum cleaners to pneumatic tools, employers must safeguard their staff from exposure to excessive noise.
Employees are at risk of serious hearing loss and safety injuries. Any permanent or disabling damage can ultimately ruin lives.
Neglecting to protect your staff this way can lead to consequences for your business. Heavy fines, business closure, and possible imprisonment are some penalties you could face.
Read all about noise at work; common noise hazards, and how to protect your staff from exposure to excessive noise.
What are the laws on noise in the workplace?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) outlines the legal requirements on occupational noise. These regulations apply to all workplace sectors, including the music and entertainment industry.
Some of the main legal responsibilities in the regulations include:
- Ensuring legal limits to noise exposure aren’t breached.
- Regulating noise risks from equipment and workspaces.
- Providing employees with noise exposure information and training.
- Carrying out safety assessments on your work practices and workforce.
These regulations don’t cover non-employees found in your workplace. However, under the Health and Safety Act (1974), employers are legally bound to safeguard any individual found on their work premises.
What is the maximum noise level at work?
The legal maximum noise level at work is an average exposure of 87 d, and peak pressure of 140 dB. It is unlawful for anyone within your workplace to be exposed to such levels.
Once you’ve recorded your noise levels, you should compare them to ‘action values’. These are acceptable noise levels at work you must actively reach on a daily or weekly basis:
- Lower level of exposure is 80 dB.
- Peak sound pressure is 135 dB.
- Upper levels of exposure (respectfully) are 85 dB to 137 dB.
What are common noise hazards?
Some of the most common noise hazards employees face are from:
- Power or pneumatic tools.
- Impact tools, like hammers and drills.
- Powered cartridge-run tools, like guns and punching machinery.
- Interference noise; like from vacuum cleaners or crowded spaces.
Construction, agriculture, and the entertainment industries are recognized as places with high noise-risk hazards.
What harm is caused by noise at work?
As an employer, you must protect your staff from occupational noise. Stress at work, emotional fatigue, and physical health issues–they can all be linked to exposure from too much noise.
The most common harm caused by noise at work is hearing damage. This loss can happen instantly or build up over time. The damage of hearing loss is often permanent and can be disabling for some people.
With excessive noise at work, there is also an increased risk of safety issues. Noise can interfere with communication methods, making directions and warnings harder to hear. Employees have lessened safety awareness, which can lead to an increase in workplace accidents, injuries, and even death.
The most important goal is protecting workers from occupational noise hazards, like hearing loss and tinnitus. And it’s not just older employees who are at risk – all staff members are.
How do you manage noise at work?
You need to make sure employees follow all practices on how to block out noise at work. You can provide this by enforcing proper work methods and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Here are steps to consider when managing noise at work:
Regulate work machinery and environments
Managing workplace noise should be a continuous task. So, this needs to be done on all equipment and areas.
Perform regular checks on equipment and shared workspaces to regulate noise levels. And see which employees might be affected by excessive or repetitive noise.
Create a noise management risk assessment
Once you’ve outlined noise risks, record your data through risk assessments to manage and reduce noise-risk areas.
Employers, or H&S managers, should create a noise at work policy. Here, you can see how employees (and non-employees) are affected by too much noise at work. In your policy, cover factors like:
- Is the noise disturbing?
- Do you have to actively speak louder?
- Is the workplace considered a noisy industry? (Like in construction or manufacturing sites).
- Are you exposed to impact or explosive noises?
Uphold health & safety measures
Everyone must be aware of the risks that surround excessive noise at work. This will ensure they follow noise health & safety rules correctly, like:
- Wearing ear protection (plugs, headphones, ear inserts).
- Attending regular hearing tests.
- Taking appropriate breaks away from loud machines or environments.
Remember to adhere to the legal workplace noise limit and PPE rules every day–with regular reviews for work practices.
Invest in quieter machinery
One of the best methods to control excessive workplace noise is to buy or hire in ‘quieter’ machinery.
This can prove to be a cost-effective investment for your business in the long run. Quieter machinery can help you safeguard your employees; and prevent injuries like semi- or permanent hearing loss.
Get expert advice on managing noise in the workplace with Peninsula
It’s so important for all employers to implement health & safety procedures when it comes to noise.
This type of occupational hazard can lead to irreversible hearing loss, affecting employees for the rest of their lives.
If you fail to manage excessive noise at work, you risk causing detrimental injuries and safety accidents. Meaning your business can face legal claims and tribunal hearings–along with any penalties and closures to follow.
Peninsula offers expert employment health & safety advice on noise at work. We can help introduce policies, risk assessments, and procedures to help you manage excessive occupational noise.
Our clients also get access to 24/7 HR consultation on health & safety requirements. And if you are not yet a client, you can still enjoy free advice from one of our business specialists. Simply call us on 0800 028 2420