Noise Safety in the Workplace
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 protects workers from possible hearing damage as a result of their jobs. This is particularly relevant to those working in the music and entertainment industries, but is also important where loud machinery and tools are routinely used. Regular exposure to loud noise can damage eardrums which leads to loss of hearing and tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears. Ear damage is often irreparable, so significant precautions should be taken to prevent employees from developing permanent hearing problems.
Assessing excessive Noise
By law, employers are responsible for assessing the risk of hearing damage to their workforce and putting measures in place in order to prevent their employees from being exposed to excessive noise. For employers within the music and entertainment industries, noise safety should be at the top of their risk assessment agendas, but it may be less obvious for employers in other industries to think about, even though their employees may still be affected by excessive noise.
There are a number of ways employers can assess the noise levels in their work place. Firstly, ask whether noise is intrusive and affects work, for example if employees have to raise their voices to each other in order to be heard. They should then consider whether there are often loud, sudden noises, for example, from hammering or cartridge operated tools. It is also useful to ask employees directly whether they often leave work with muffled hearing or ringing in their ears.
Regulations state that employers should provide hearing protection for workers exposed to noise over 85 decibels. The absolute limit employees can be exposed to, with hearing protection in place, is 87 decibels. At 80 decibels and above, employees must be provided with training to teach them of the dangers of excessive noise, and the precautions they should take to protect their hearing.