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Employers and Noise at Work

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

The Noise Regulations 2005 require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. The Regulations require you as an employer to:

assess the risks to your employees from noise at work;
take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
provide your employees with hearing protection if you cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods;
make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
provide your employees with information, instruction and training;
carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

The Health Effects of Noise at Work

Noise at work can cause hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent. Continued exposure to loud noise can result in permanent damage to you hearing. Permanent hearing damage can be caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud, explosive noises, eg from guns or cartridge-operated machines.

But hearing loss is usually gradual because of prolonged exposure to noise. It may only be when damage caused by noise over the years combines with hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become. This may mean their family complains about the television being too loud, they cannot keep up with conversations in a group, or they have trouble using the telephone. Eventually everything becomes muffled and a hearing loss can become very isolating as people withdraw from everyday conversation and people. Obviously digital hearing aids can help to provide exceptionally good results for people suffering with hearing loss, but its far better to prevent the need for hearing aids by protecting one’s hearing.

Hearing loss is not the only problem. People may develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears), a distressing condition which can lead to disturbed sleep.

When should hearing protection be used?

Hearing protection should be issued to employees:

where extra protection is needed above what has been achieved using noise control;
as a short-term measure while other methods of controlling noise are being developed.
You should not use hearing protection as an alternative to controlling noise by technical and organisational means.
For more information about Leightons Corporate Hearing Care services, including hearing screenings at work and the provision of hearing protection to employees ,please contact us on 01252 823 400.