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The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are there to protect people against risks to their health from exposure to noise at work and visitors at a work place. A worker or person within a noisy workplace should not be exposed to the lower exposure action values of 80 dB with a peak sound pressure of 135 dB on a daily or weekly basis. If the noise exposure varies considerably from day to day, the employer can assess the noise level as being a weekly average. If an employee is working in an environment whereby the noise level is at or above the lower exposure limit, the employer must carry out a risk assessment. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 dB.

The risk assessment findings should include the level, type and duration of the exposure. It should also be investigated, where possible, if there is an interaction between ototoxic substances and hearing. Also, if there are any effects between hearing and noise vibration. Ototoxic substances are those that are toxic to the ear, i.e the cochlea or auditory nerve, such as a side effect of a drug. Noise can effect the ear in many ways, from reversible and temporary, to irreversible and permanent. It should also be considered if there is the availability of alternative work equipment which would produce less noise. If personal hearing protectors are supplied, it should be considered if these are the best ones and the availability of information for employees. If there have been changes to the work place these all must be reflected in the risk assessment as they occur.

There are many actions following the risk assessment findings. Generally, they are that the risk from the exposure of employees to noise is either eliminated, or, where this is not reasonably practicable, reduced to as low a level as possible for work to be carried out. If there is exposure to the upper limits, the employer must reduce exposure to as low level as possible, by establishing organisational and technical measures to do so. This includes the design and layout of work places, the use of work equipment that emits the least possible noise, limitation of the duration and intensity of noise by moving the workers periodically to less noisy areas, the suitable training of employees and appropriate rest periods. If there is an area at work where an employee is likely to be exposed to the upper noise levels; this area should be designated a Hearing Protection Zone, is a ‘restricted access’ area and no entry without wearing hearing protectors. All employees should wear hearing protectors according to the regulations and engage in a health surveillance as dictated by the risk assessment. Any changes or suspect changes to an employees’ hearing should be documented and action taken immediately to limit or exclude any further exposure to stressful noise levels by this employee. Employees should have information on how to detect and report hearing damage. However, safe working practices should already be in place, in consultation with the regulations, so that there is not the necessity to work backwards and try to repair hearing loss that has already occurred.

Sources

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2005/1643/contents/made

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ototoxicity

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