02 Jun 2020


Noise exposure is the single largest contributor to deafness.

Over 46 million people in Europe work in harmful levels of noise.

Occupations most at risk of harmful levels of noise exposure include construction, metal, electrical and textile processing. The highest-risk occupation is metal processing with exposure rates three and a half times the average. Repetitive assembly and inspection and other transport and machinery operatives have rates nearly three times the average. Construction and electrical processing have rates which are more than double the average.

The higher the level of noise, and the longer individuals are exposed to it, the greater the risk they have of suffering harm from it. Hearing damage can occur when the level of noise a person is exposed to is over 80dB(A). Eight hours of workplace noise exposure at 85dB(A) is the legal limit of noise ‘dose’ in the UK, as defined in the 2005 Control of Noise at Work regulations. If the noise level is higher than 85dB(A) then the legal limit will be reached in a shorter period of time. For each 3dB increase in noise level, half the exposure time is allowable. For example, four hours of noise exposure at 88dB(A) and two hours at 91dB(A) are considered equivalent, in terms of noise exposure dose, to eight hours at 85dB(A).

The Health and Safety Executive has estimated the number of people that are exposed to a range of noise levels:

80-85 dB(A)85-90 dB(A)90-95 dB(A)95-100 dB(A)100-110 dB(A)>110 dB(A)

These exposure rates and the occupational diseases that can result are preventable if employers are able to apply effective noise control measures. The best way of reducing exposure rates is by controlling the noise at source while a combination of methods is normally appropriate. This can include redesigning the layout of workstations, re-organising work processes, managing noise transmission pathways and providing hearing protection.