Employers’ Responsibilities: Noise at Work

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 protect people against risks to their health and safety due to excessive noise at work. Noise levels in the workplace should not exceed the statutory levels, as this could affect employees’ health and lead to penalties for the employer.

Responsibilities of Employers in Relation to Noise at Work

Covering all industries; the legislation stipulates that any employer who intends to perform work that will likely expose the workforce to excessive noise, must complete a risk assessment that outlines how this will affect health and safety. It must also identify the necessary measures that will be taken to ensure noise levels meet the requirements of the regulations.

Employers must provide hearing protection – and also hearing protection zones – if the noise level is 85 decibels. The level at which risk assessments must take place is 80 decibels. Workers must not be exposed to noise levels greater than 87 decibels; taking into consideration the reduction provided by hearing protection.

Workers must also have regular health checks in the form of hearing tests if they are regularly exposed to sound levels greater than 85 decibels.

What can you do if Noise Levels at Work Appear to be Affecting your Health?

Workers need to co-operate, assisting their employer by taking the necessary measures to protect hearing – using any noise control devices correctly and following any work practices that have been put in place. Training should be given to ensure that everyone knows how to use hearing protection effectively.

Take proper care of hearing protection devices and be aware of where you can get them from – your employer should tell you this. Finally, if you’re concerned your hearing is becoming impaired, let your employer know right away.

Penalties for Workplaces that Exceed the Legal Noise Limits

Employers who fail to follow legal standards set out in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 will be penalised by law, no matter what the reason for failing to keep the noise under control.

Some employers may choose to do nothing, failing to carry out risk assessments despite excessive noise levels. Others may be guilty of not using the correct noise protection equipment or measuring the level of noise incorrectly – this can occur if the instrument hasn’t been properly calibrated.

Not controlling noise risks is another problem. Employers can make the mistake of thinking that if they find an area where there’s excessive noise, they’ve fulfilled their duty by issuing personal hearing protection to the workforce.

In fact, they should also be investigating ways to reduce the noise by investing in quieter machinery or adopting a sound planning strategy – introducing noise reduction measures such as sound barriers, enclosures and walls.

Employers who fail to comply with the regulations could be liable if any employee develops noise induced hearing loss.

The employer could be fined a substantial sum if successfully prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive and they could face personal injury claims, being required to pay compensation to any employee whose hearing has been damaged.

A manufacturing plant in the UK was fined £16,000 and ordered to pay £11,000 prosecution costs after being taken to court for breaching the Control of Noise at Work Regulations.

The easiest way to pre-empt any issues is by carrying out the simple noise risk assessment and dealing with any possible issues that arise by ensuring adequate noise protection measures are in place.


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