Exposure to excessive noises within the workplace
Next we attended a factory in Kirkby in Ashfield that specialised in the production of decorative wooden cabinets. During their working day employees are expected to be exposed to loud noises for 9 hours and 40 minutes. Our client contacted us and instructed us to carry out an assessment of occupational exposure to noise to their employees.
The site consists of an administrative section to the front of the building and production facilities to the rear. The production is divided into a machine shop, building, accessory and packaging areas. Approximately nine employees are employed to work on the main production floor and they are usually assigned to a particular location/task for the duration of the day, however they are rotated to different locations/tasks throughout the week.
How we calculate daily personal exposure to noise
Firstly our surveyor must take measurements of noise from different locations within the production floor and during a variety of different tasks. In order to take these measurements our surveyor needed the assistance of specialist equipment called a B&K Precision Sound Level meter. It is important that prior to and after using the sound level meter it is calibrated in order to ensure an accurate result.
Measurements of A-weighted sound pressure levels and C-weighted peak sound pressure levels were taken at the employees’ ear position, while they were carrying out typical work operations. We were then able to calculate the daily personal exposure from the measured noise and the time the employee is likely to be exposed to the noise. We could then use this information as a base for an action plan to minimise the risk of exposure to excessive noise within the workplace for our client.
Our noise assessment was undertaken according to the requirements of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and relevant guidance. The regulations specify the responsibilities of employers, employees and machinery manufacturers in reducing the risk of hearing damage due to excessive noise at work.
So are employees at risk of exposure to noise?
Our noise assessment revealed that if employees are currently using the ear protection provided effectively, then the answer is no as the peak exposure was not exceeded. Due to this we only had a couple of recommendations for our client in order to comply with The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
We recommend that this noise assessment should be reviewed and updated if/when circumstances change in the workplace which might alter the level of exposure. Even when there have been no changes in the workplace, a review of the risk assessment should be carried out every two years. Where possible, our client should establish and implement a programme of organisational and technical measures in order to reduce employees’ exposure levels. The employer should ensure that all noise control equipment and hearing protection is properly used and maintained. This means that periodical checks on implemented noise control measures should be made.