We all work in areas that have varying degrees of noise, some noise is pleasant such as music and some not so pleasant such as traffic. So what is noise and what is acceptable and what is not in our workplaces ?

Well the definition of noise from the Oxford Dictionary is “A sound,especially one that is loud or unpleasant or that causes disturbance”. The Control of Noise At Work Regulations 2005 (CNAW) defines noise as “any audible sound.”

In order to comply with the CNAW and ultimately protect our workforce we need to be able to accurately measure the levels of noise. However it is not just the number of decibels that we are exposing the workforce to but also the time of exposure and the frequency range.

To achieve this specialist equipment and expertise is required. QSC Consultancy Ltd have specialists who can visit your premises or sites and carry out a full and comprehensive noise assessment and advise on the best practices to reduce the noise levels.

However as a rough guide if employees have to raise their voices to carry out normal conversation when about 2 metres apart for at least part of the working day then you may have a noise issue.

There are 3 exposure action levels

  • The lower exposure action value is a daily or weekly average noise exposure level of 80 dB, at which the employer has to provide information and training and make hearing protection available.
  • The upper exposure action value is set at a daily or weekly average noise exposure of 85 dB, above which the employer is required to take reasonably practicable measures to reduce noise exposure, such as engineering controls or other technical measures. The use of hearing protection is also mandatory if the noise cannot be controlled by these measures, or while these measures are being planned or carried out.
  • Finally there is an exposure limit value of 87 dB, above which no worker can be exposed (taking hearing protection into account).

Depending on the noise levels measured there will be a number of options open to you, the most obvious being suitable ear defenders. However, the better ways of protecting the work force would be by consideration of the “hierarchy of control”, in other words Eliminate, Reduce, Isolate, Control and PPE.

So if possible any un-necessary processes should be removed (Eliminate) all together. This is usually not possible, so the next step is to consider reduction in noise levels. There are dozens of ways to do this depending on what the source of the noise is, where it is located, and the environment the noise is being generated in.

Isolate the noise, this can be done by full enclosure of the source of the noise, or by possible re-organising the plant layout, by positioning screens etc.

Control of the noise can be achieved again by various methods and processes including screening off areas, insulating zones etc.

Finally the use of suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). This will always be the last form of control because it relies on individuals wearing hearing protection in the correct manner. Not all hearing protection is the same. The type of hearing protection all depends on the levels of noise reduction required.

Hearing protection varies from simple foam ear plugs to full heavy duty moulded ear defenders. QSC Consultancy Ltd, offer a full range of ear protection. For details contact QSC Ltd on 01889 881887 or 07818402094, or email julie@qscconsultancy.co.uk

Failure to control or address noise issues in your business could be lead to possible prosecution by the HSE and/or claims further down the line from Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) caused to employees.

So for more information on noise and the controls that should be implemented contact QSC on 01889 881887, or email julie@qscconsultancy.co.uk