DESPITE legislation being introduced to guard against it, thousands of employees still develop hearing problems every year as a result of being exposed to excessive noise in the workplace, even though it is one of the easiest and cheapest conditions to prevent according to workplace equipment provider Slingsby.
Under The Control of Noise at Work Regulations, employers have a legal responsibility to protect workers from high noise levels in order to prevent hearing loss or tinnitus which causes a constant ringing, buzzing or whistling sound in the ear.
Lee Wright, Marketing Director of Slingsby explains: “Hearing problems, tinnitus or industrial deafness, as it’s often known, are still common medical conditions that are caused by excessive noise. The severity of the condition depends entirely on the level of noise and the length of time exposed to it but in severe cases it can lead to complete hearing loss and once the damage is done the effects are irreversible.
“Employers are required by law to protect their employees when noise reaches certain levels or else they can face prosecution and compensation claims. For this reason it’s important that employers monitor noise levels in areas where it can become uncomfortable. However the good news is that if it is excessive, it’s usually cheap and easy to guard employees against it.”
To help prevent hearing problems, Slingsby has compiled a check-list that employers must follow when noise levels reach certain levels.
When daily noise levels reach an average of 80 dBA (decibels) employers must:-
Explain the risks to employees and tell them how to protect their ears.
Provide ear protectors – otherwise known as ‘ear defenders’ – and keep them in good working order.
Reduce noise levels wherever possible by modifying, muffling or replacing equipment and maintaining it regularly.
When daily noise levels reach an average of 85 dBA (decibels) ear protectors must be worn by law and signs must be displayed warning people they are in an ‘ear protection zone’.
Average exposure levels, after taking into account any hearing protection, should never exceed 87 dBA.
Finally Lee adds: “It’s important to remember that the regulations also require employers to ensure noise is minimised before resorting to ear protection, such as installing sound reduction equipment and taking noise levels into account when ordering new equipment or machinery.
“When it is suspected that noise in the workplace could be a problem, a specialist risk assessment should be carried out to estimate employees’ exposure and work out what can be done to comply
with the law.”