Noise regulations dictate that loud environments require control at source by employers.
The World Health Organisation identify some of the sources of occupational noise as rotors, gears, turbulent fluid flow, impact processes, electrical machines, internal combustion engines, pneumatic equipment, drilling, crushing, blasting, pumps and compressors. Furthermore, the emitted sounds are reflected from floors, ceilings and equipment. The major sources of noise that damage hearing are impact processes, material handling and industrial jets.
Employers are required to control risks at source, eliminating or reducing noise risks to a minimum, taking account of technical progress and of the availability of preventive measures. Workers should be consulted and participate in the risk assessment and the risk elimination/reduction process. There should not be a reliance on personal hearing protection when there are other measures available to remove or control the risk.
2003 Noise Directive
The 2003 noise directive identifies factors to consider when controlling noise risks:
- Working methods that require less exposure to noise
- The choice of appropriate work equipment, taking account of the work to be done, emitting the least possible noise
- European directives exist that set out how to deal with noise in the workplace
- Manufacturers have requirements under European directives to ensure that machinery is designed and constructed to reduce noise emissions
- Standards exist to complement the directives, giving detailed information on topics, from noise measurement to acoustics
- The general principles of prevention:
- Avoiding risks
- Evaluating the risks which cannot be avoided
- Combating the risks at source
- Adapting the work to the individual, especially as regards the design of workplaces, the choice of work equipment, and the choice of working and production methods
- Adapting to technical progress and new innovations
- Replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous
- Developing a coherent overall prevention policy which covers technology, organisation of work, working conditions, social relationships and the influence of factors related to the working environment
- Giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures
- Giving appropriate instructions to the workers
- The design and layout of workplaces and work stations
- Adequate information and training to instruct workers to use work equipment correctly in order to reduce their exposure to noise to a minimum
- Noise reduction by technical means
- Appropriate maintenance programmes for work equipment, the workplace and workplace systems
- Noise reduction by better organisation of work
- Limiting the duration and intensity of the exposure and/or by organising appropriate work schedules with adequate rest periods.
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are based on the European Union Directive requiring similar basic laws throughout the Union on protecting workers from the risks caused by noise. They do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise from their non-work activities, or making an informed choice to go to noisy places. They replace the Noise at Work Regulations 1989, which have been in force since 1990.
The duties in the Noise Regulations are in addition to the general duties set out in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. These general duties extend to the safeguarding of the health and safety of people who are not your employees, such as students, voluntary workers, visitors and members of the public. Employees also have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to take care of their own health and safety and that of others whom their work may affect; and to co-operate with employers so that they may comply with health and safety legislation.