What is noise at work and why should I care?

Noise at Work 2

As both an employer and employee, noise at work can appear to be nothing more than a nuisance, where health & safety goes over the top and forces employers to provide earplugs and ear defenders to workers who don’t want to wear them…

Despite this, there are plenty of great reasons for both employers and workers to sit up and take notice about noise at work.

First and foremost is due to the Noise at Work Act 2005. This piece of Government legislation means that it is vital that employers take the appropriate steps to safeguard their employee’s hearing. This requires providing adequate hearing protection should an employee is exposed to too much noise in their day-to-day working life, whatever industry or sector that may be. This can be easily achieved through noise at work surveys; these are also a great method for companies seeking to gain ISO certification for meeting requirements to provide their workers with outstanding employment premises.

Many employers do not see the relevance of having a noise at work survey, as they feel they do not need an acoustic consultant to inform them of the fact their workplace is noisy (places such as textiles factories or smelting plants) – they can hear that they are noisy! However, with the Noise at Work Act 2005, new values have been established for the total noise exposure an employee must be subjected to in their day-to-day working life before they must adopt hearing protection. Having an acoustic consultant perform a noise survey enables employees to know exactly which workers should be wearing hearing protection and when. This can also aid in general health and safety through allowing the most practical working circumstances for procedures such as fire drills.

In spite of noise at work being a legal issue, workers should pay particular attention to hearing protection and their aural health in general. It has been well established that excessive loud noise causes problematic and irreversible damage to hearing. Workers who are subjected to excessive levels of noise requiring hearing protection are legally required to undergo health surveillance through an employee hearing test. This has the benefit of identifying employees who are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss, as well as informing employers as to the effectiveness of their hearing protection program.