Noise In The Workplace

Noise In The Workplace
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Noise is described as an unwanted sound. If you’re exposed to loud noise for a sustained amount of time, it can lead to health problems in the long run. This blog will therefore look at identifying the most common ways to reduce noise and explain some of the health implications.

Legal Requirements

In April 2006, the revised version of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. These regulations require employers to:

  • Conduct noise risk assessments on areas of high exposure
  • Eliminate or reduce sound
  • Provide appropriate PPE
  • Provide instructions and training
  • Comply with the legal limits

Measuring Sound

The measurement used for sound is decibels (dB) on a scale ranging from 1-160. When measuring sound exposure, sound meters are used. These measure sound over a long period of time which is then turned into an average indicating the sound level we are exposed to in a typical day. This is known as ‘Equivalent Noise Level’ or ‘Leq’.

Noise exposure differs depending on the environment. Below is a list of some examples that provide a good idea on what you could be exposed too.

  • Quiet office – 40-60 dB(A)
  • Normal conversation – 50-60 dB(A)
  • Call centre – up to 100 dB(A) in the headphones
  • Alarms (as experienced by engineers) – 100 dB(A)
  • Aircraft taking off 25 metres away – 140 dB(A)

Exposure Limits and Action Values

The regulations require the employer to eliminate or reduce the noise where possible. A risk assessment will be required for areas that are likely to be exposed to noise. Your risk assessment will help to understand what your Exposure Limits and Action Values are and any remedial action.

Exposure Limits – The amount of daily or weekly personal noise exposure or of peak sound pressure that must not be exceeded.

Action Values – Action which an employer is required to take at a certain level of noise.

Lower Exposure Values
A) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 dB (A)
B) A peak sound pressure of 135 dB (C)

Upper Exposure Values 
A) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85 dB (A)
B) A peak sound pressure of 137 dB (C)

Exposure Limit Values
A) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87 dB (A)
B) A peak sound pressure of 140 dB (C)

Employers must provide their employees with information and training at 80 dB(A) and hearing protection and hearing protection zones at 85 dB(A).

Health Implications

170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, ringing in the ears or other ear conditions due to excessive noise at work. Noise induced hearing loss can occur due to exposure to a very loud noise or being exposed to noise over a long period of time. Below is a list of some of the most common noise induced health implications:

  • Short term hearing loss
  • Chronic hearing loss
  • Tinnitus – Continual ringing in the ear
  • Presbyacusis – Hearing loss due to the ageing
  • Stress

This shows that noise can damage the health of those exposed to it. Therefore, it is essential to know how to prevent or eliminate noise at the source.

Noise Prevention

There are multiple tools and techniques available to help prevent noise. Below are some of the most common.

Engineering Controls
This can involve changing work tools or processes. For example, buying quieter tools or running machines at lower speeds.

Workplace Design 
Consider how your workplace is designed. For example, look to see if any noisy machinery can be relocated away from heavily populated areas.

Surround machinery with sound absorbing materials.

Hearing Protection
For example, ear plugs. After putting in all the controls above, you may consider Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). This should be a last resort. For example, ear plugs.

Make sure time in noisy environments is reduced. For example, allow more breaks for those exposed to noise.


Eric’s Top Tip

When PPE is the option you require after reviewing all other control measure, make sure the PPE you provide your employees with is up to the correct standard. This will require checking the packaging against your risk assessment and the noise levels present in the workplace.



How Sure Safety Can Help

Sure Safety can help identify areas of your premises that exceed the noise exposure limits. Furthermore, we can work with you to find the best solutions to prevent excessive noise.

To arrange a consultation, call 029 2086 8802 or email

Sure Safety can offer consultancy in the following areas: Health and Safety, Risk Assessment, Fire, Accreditation, Training and Policies, Planning and Management Systems. For more information on these services, look at our website.  In addition,  you can check out our Twitter and Facebook.