• Assess the risks to your employees from noise at work;
• Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks;
• Provide your employees with hearing protection if you cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods;
• Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded;
• Provide your employees with information, instruction and training;
• Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). An ‘A-weighting’ sometimes written as ‘dB(A)’, is used to measure average noise levels, and a ‘C-weighting’ or ‘dB(C)’, to measure peak, impact or explosive noises.
You might just notice a 3 dB change in noise level, because of the way our ears work. Yet every 3 dB doubles the noise, so what might seem like small differences in the numbers can be quite significant.
What are the action levels and limit values?
The Noise Regulations require you to take specific action at certain action values. These relate to:
• The levels of exposure to noise of your employees averaged over a working day or week; and
• The maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.
• Lower exposure action values:
- daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB;
- peak sound pressure of 135 dB
• Upper exposure action values:
- daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB;
- peak sound pressure of 137 dB.
How do I get started?
If you have a noise problem you will need to assess the risks to decide whether any further action is needed, and plan how you will do it.
The aim of the risk assessment is to help you decide what you need to do to ensure the health and safety of your employees who are exposed to noise. It is more than just taking measurements of noise.
Your risk assessment should:
• identify where there may be a risk from noise and who is likely to be affected;
• contain a reliable estimate of your employees’ exposures, and compare the exposure with the exposure action values and limit values;
• identify what you need to do to comply with the law, e.g. whether noise-control measures or hearing protection are needed and, if so, where and what type.
You need to make sure that your risk assessment:
• has been drawn up by someone who is competent to carry out the task; and
• is based on advice and information from people who are competent to provide it.