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European Noise at Work Summit

spotlights the new EU directive on noise and awards Europe’s best noise prevention cases

EU policymakers, social partners and leading safety and health experts meet on 12 December 2005 in Bilbao, Spain, to see how better protect European workers from noise and to award those organisations that have already managed to implement effective solutions. As many as 60 million workers in the EU are considered to be exposed to excessive noise during their working hours.

The summit, jointly organised by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work and the UK Presidency of the European Union, is the culmination this year’s ‘Stop that Noise!’ campaign in 25 EU Member States as well as EFTA and candidate countries.

Vladimír Špidla, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities said at the summit: ‘Noise is a growing concern all over Europe, in workplaces from factories and farms, to entertainment and services. More than 13 million workers are reported to have suffered impaired hearing at work. And noise goes beyond hearing problems. It can cause accidents, voice loss and increase stress levels. The new EU directive, to be implemented in all Member States by mid February 2006, reduces the levels of noise to which workers can be exposed and requires employers to eliminate or reduce to a minimum the risks.’

Noise-induced hearing loss is amongst the most commonly reported occupational diseases in the European Union. It is also one of the most costly, with billions of euros a year paid in compensations and in indirect costs resulting from sick leave, lower productivity and accidents due to impaired communication because of noise. The human costs are immeasurable.

‘The occupational safety and health community in Europe is determined to take more effective steps to reduce this tragic toll and thus to improve both the quality of work and the competitiveness of European business’, said Hans-Horst Konkolewsky, Director of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. ‘Strategies and solutions presented at the summit show that effective noise prevention is possible and may be implemented in a cost-efficient way even by small companies.’

The European Good Practice Awards 2005 were given to the best practical solutions for the prevention of noise exposure. The winners include a training project from the UK aimed at orchestral musicians. The national industry body representing professional orchestras, the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) has been running a multi-faceted project to address the particular problems faced by this industry. In carrying out the project, the ABO has worked with the Musicians Union and the UK occupational safety and health authority over a number of issues, including policy development on noise
for the sector. It has also shared its work with other orchestras outside the group to transfer the system and training. Work so far undertaken includes expert research, a final report, seminars, conferences and special training.

More information about noise at work, the summit and the European Good Practice Awards 2005 available at the ‘Stop That Noise!’ campaign’s homepage: http://ew2005.osha.eu.int.

European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, Gran Via 33, E-48009 Bilbao, Spain,
email: information@osha.eu.int, fax: +34 94 479 4383.

1. Good Practice Awards 2005:
-F.C. Nüdling Betonelemente GmbH & Co. KG & IFF Research Institute in Weimar, Germany
-STBG – Steinbruchs-Berufsgenossenschaft, Germany
-National Institute for Working Life, Sweden
-URVOY, France
-The Sector Work Environment Council for Agriculture, Denmark
-Verbond Papier & Karton, the Netherlands
-Association of British Orchestras, the UK

2. Complete information pack on noise at work is available in the campaign’s online press office at http://ew2005.osha.eu.int/pressroom

3. The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work was set up by the European Union to help meet the information needs in the field of occupational safety and health. Based in Bilbao, Spain, the Agency aims to improve the lives of people at work by stimulating the flow of technical, scientific and economic information between all those involved in occupational safety and health issues.

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