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Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 | Employers Guide

Updated: 5 days ago

a man wearing hearing protection

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 was created by the Health and safety Executive (HSE) to protect employees at work. If workers are constantly exposed to loud equipment and noises, this can cause various health issues such as temporary and permanent hearing loss and even stress.


 

In this Article:



 

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005


Noisy work environments are very common in sectors such as construction, manufacturing and transport. Even some sectors of hospitality have a noisy work environment such as bars and clubs that play loud music.


This is why the control of noise at work regulations were created. To reduce the amount of people suffering from noise related injuries by ensuring employers improve working conditions and provide appropriate protection to keep their staff safe.


 

 

What is Considered Noise?

 

Noise is defined as audible sound and in the workplace this can be anything including operating and being near loud machinery, construction and even conversations in the office. Exposure to the noise is also defined as a period of time such as hours, days and weeks in which employees are surrounded by the loud noise.


Depending on how loud the noise is, employers have a responsibility to ensure the workers are exposed for as little amount of time as possible to reduce and prevent the health risks associated with loud noise.


Constant Noise

If the work environment is constantly noisy, this can cause various physical and mental health problems for the employees. This can include hearing loss, tinnitus and migraines as well as an increase in stress and anxiety levels. Noise at work can also affect employees’ concentration and productivity which means reducing the noise level is in everyone’s best interest.


Employers have a duty of care to perform risk assessments for the noise and implement certain safety measures to reduce the noise and ensure all employees are healthy. Noise reduction will also provide an improved workspace to enhance employees’ wellbeing in a less stressful working environment.


 

image of balance of law statue


What is Control of Noise Regulations 2005?

 

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 were created by the HSE to ensure employers do everything they can to protect their workers from noise exposure in the workplace. The regulations provide employers with various responsibilities to reduce the health and safety risk towards employers.


The employer responsibilities include:


  • Perform and maintain regular risk assessments on noise at work

  • Implement safety measures based on the risks found in the assessment

  • Provide employees with the correct equipment including hearing protectors

  • Ensure employees receive the appropriate training, instruction and information

  • Ensure the workplace noise level never exceeds the legal noise limits


Both employers and employees must have the appropriate knowledge, training and skills as required by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 to ensure everyone is safe at work and are not constantly exposed to loud noises in the workspace.


The regulation states that “the employer ensures that risk from the exposure of his employees to noise is either eliminated or reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. If any employee is likely to be exposed to noise at or above an upper exposure action value, the employer shall reduce exposure to as low a level by establishing and implementing a programme of organisational and technical measures.”


 

Legal Noise Limit

 

There is a legal noise limit as stated by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. This limit was put into place to ensure workers are protected from the exposure of loud and constant noise at work. The 2005 regulation is only applicable to employees in the work environment and does not include members of the public who may be affected by noise caused by non-work activities.


The following outlines what safety measures must be implemented at each noise level as stated by the HSE:


80 dB - Risk Assessments and Training

If the workplace noise reaches 80 dB(A), employers must perform regular risk assessments and provide training for the employees that it will affect.


85 dB - PPE and Hearing Protection Zones

The Control of Noise at Work Regulation states that employers must provide their employees with hearing protection such as noise cancelling ear pieces and hearing protection zones if the daily or weekly average noise level is 85 dB(A).


87 dB - Maximum Noise Exposure Limit

The HSE regulation states that the maximum noise exposure limit value is 87 dB(A) and employees must never be exposed to this level without wearing any of the protective equipment. There is a legal noise limit to protect workers’ hearing and health in particularly noisy work environments.


 

stopwatch showing exposure time

Exposure Time

 

The HSE provides a noise calculator and a ready-reckoner which gives employers an idea of how long the employees can be exposed to loud noises both daily and weekly, depending on how loud it is. They also use exposure points which add up with each task that is performed.


To stay below 80 dB daily, the exposure points should be within 32 points. The maximum exposure daily is 87 dB and this equates to 160 exposure points. 85 dB daily requires employees to stay within 100 exposure points. The calculator also reveals the amount of time employees should spend as a minimum performing certain tasks to stay under these limits.


Here is a table providing the average amount of time in hours and minutes an employee is able to listen to certain dB levels of noise:

Noise Level (dB)

Maximum Duration

80

8-12 hours

85

4 hours

87

2 hours

90

1 hour

95

15 minutes

100

5 minutes

105

2 minutes


 

Preventative Measures

 

To effectively reduce the noise levels in the workplace, employers will provide regular risk assessments which will identify any hazards and ensure certain safety measures are implemented to protect the workers. The ideal preventative measure to be used in the workplace will depend on the type of work being performed and the level of noise it releases.


For example, if an employee is using a very loud machine, the best way to reduce the noise is to provide the employee that is using the machine with noise cancelling equipment such as ear pieces and also create a workspace that is isolated from the rest of the workers to keep them as far away from the noise.


Isolating the source of the noise should be the first step considered in the workplace but sometimes the available space is not big enough for this to be effective. Reducing noise in the workplace will be highly beneficial for all workers’ health and safety.

Here are some of the common preventative measures that employers use to keep workers safe in a noisy environment:


 

a man putting earbuds into his ears for protection

Hearing Protection PPE

 

If the noise reaches 85 dB as a daily exposure, employees are required to wear protective equipment such as ear pieces and noise cancelling head phones as well as be provided with designated hearing protection zones.


The Control of Noise at Work Regulations states that employers must provide their workers with the correct hearing protectors. They must also provide appropriate training to ensure employees know how to wear the PPE correctly and regularly maintain the equipment.


Depending on the A-weighted noise level, there are different hearing protectors designed to provide protection for the correct single number rating value (SNR). It is vital that the employees wear the correct hearing protectors for the noise level to prevent over protection.


If the hearing protectors reduce the noise level below 70 dB, it will block out all noise around the worker including warning signals, alarms and communication. This is a safety risk and will reduce their protection even further as they have become isolated from the working environment and are unable to hear any potential danger.


 

Barriers

 

Workplace barriers come in various forms and can be very effective in reducing noise due to their mobility. This method of reducing noise can be superior to other options such as hearing protection as barriers do not affect a workers ability to hear what else is happening around them, this can be a concern as many existing safety measures used audible warnings which cannot be heard through some PPE.


Here are some of the most common forms of barriers that can be used to reduce noise in the workplace:


  • Sound absorbing wall panels - This type of wall panel is often made of foam and are designed to absorb sound to reduce the noise.

  • Workplace screens and partitions -These are designed to act as a barrier to isolate the noisy work area from the rest of the employees.

  • Designated Noisy Areas - Some areas can also be chosen to carry out noisy tasks which are separated from other employee areas.


 

Administrative Controls


Administrative controls are a good option for protecting staff from noise hazards with little to no cost. Although cost effective, implementing administrative controls can be difficult to implement in workplaces with lots of members of staff.


Some effective control certain administrative controls including:


  • If shift work is applied at the workplace, try to use the loud machinery when there are fewer employees working to reduce exposure.

  • Enforce limits on how long workers are able to use the loud equipment.

  • Ensure there are quiet areas available to allow workers some time away from the noise.

 

 

two men working on maintaining a piece of machinary

Maintenance of Equipment

 

Regular maintenance of equipment in the workplace is essential to ensure it always works as it should. The equipment will naturally deteriorate over time making it nosier and the regular maintenance will help to reduce the noise by replacing old or faulty parts.


A regular risk assessment will identify any issues with the equipment and employees should also listen out for any changes in noise which may mean that the equipment needs a new part. Providing employees with regularly maintained equipment not only reduces the noise levels but also improves health and safety in the workplace.


 

Noise Awareness Training


Noise awareness training can play a vital part in keeping employees safe by educating them on the dangers of noise and the necessity of wearing the correct PPE at all time when loud noise is present.


We offer a comprehensive noise awareness training course that keeps your employees safe and ensure your business is compliant with the up to date health and safety regulations.


 

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