Is exposure to excessive noise dangerous?
In this article we will be discussing our recent trip to the West Midlands, where we were asked to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to noise in a factory. Statistically around 17,000 people in the UK suffer some degree of deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear related conditions caused by excessive noise at work. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 was introduced with the aim to ensure that employee’s hearing is protected from excessive noise in the workplace. It is our job to carry out assessments of the noise levels employees are exposed to on a daily basis, work out their daily personal exposure then recommend the appropriate remediation measures in order to minimise their exposure.
Measuring noise levels in the workplace
The average working day is 7 hours and 40 minutes long and the major sources of noise in the workshop are the finishers and laser cutting machines. During our assessment we took measurements of A-weighted sound pressure levels and C-weighted peak sound pressure levels, at the employee’s ear position while carrying out typical tasks. In order to take these measurements we required the use of specialist equipment called a B&K Precision sound level meter. We could then use these measurements, along with the expected time the employee is likely to be exposed to the noise, to calculate the daily personal exposure.
Results of noise assessment
Our assessment of occupational exposure to noise revealed that any employees working within the linishing and welding areas are likely to be exposed to a daily or weekly personal noise exposure level at or above the upper action value of 85 dB(A). All employees working within the lights area are likely to be exposed to a daily or weekly personal noise exposure level at or above the lower action value of 80 dB(A). However employees working in all other areas within the workshop are likely to be exposed to a daily or weekly personal noise exposure level below the lower action value of 80 dB(A). The peak exposure was not exceeded at any point in our assessment.
What we recommend to minimise exposure to noise
The results of our assessment indicate that all hearing protection currently available to employees is adequate in protecting them from excessive noise. Therefore we recommend that the use of hearing protection should be regularly checked and enforced by site managers. Regular training should be provided in order for all employees to be aware of the dangers of exposure to excessive noise how to use protective equipment effectively.
This assessment should be reviewed and updated when circumstances alter in the workplace which may effect the noise exposure level, however where circumstances do not alter the risk assessment should be reviewed every two years.