By Simon Huggett of Colchester-based The LEV Man
We regularly talk with our clients concerning the subject of Noise at Work Assessments.
These assessments come under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and, by law, you require an assessment completed at least every two years. You will however require a further assessment should you make significant changes to machinery or processes that affect the noise generated during this period.
The assessments are completed to reduce the number of occurrences of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). These have been steadily declining over a number of years but there is still a significant amount that can be done to reduce occurrences further. The reduction is mainly due to assessments being completed, although a large improvement has been made by manufacturers of equipment, with input from the Health & Safety Executive to reduce the noise generated from the machinery. Certainly, keeping machines well maintained not only benefits the client by reducing the noise, but it also provides an improved performance from the machine, which aids productivity.
Improvements are also made by the users, by introducing other measures within the workplace, such as removing the need for certain processes to be performed in the first place but also by segregating machinery or applying acoustic screens. The reviewing of processes is also good practice.
The final action is the introduction of Hearing Protection, by using ear defenders or ear buds. This really should be installed as a last resort once the other actions have been taken.
The Noise at Work Assessment will determine the noise levels being heard by operators and will identify areas that need to be designated as Hearing Protection Zones. Signage will need to be displayed.
Areas measured below an exposure limit of 80 dB(A) do not require hearing protection.
Areas that are measured above 80 dB(A) and below 85 dB(A) it is advised that hearing protection is made available but not compulsory.
For areas measured above 85 dB(A), hearing protection is compulsory and operators that continually work in these areas will require health surveillance by way of an annual audiometric test. These can cost £50 – £60 for each test.
The hearing protection required is identified by a single number rating (SNR) on the product. It is important to get this correct as you could introduce over protection or under protection, dependent upon the SNR for the noise measured. Over protection can lead to ‘isolation’ for the operator, but can also limit their hearing of alarms etc.
If you don’t have an assessment in date, you need to get one completed. For further info, go to www.thelevman.co.uk