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Listen out for noise!

  • 26 February 2016 - 17:12

    When I first became actively involved in health and safety many years ago, I can always remember my grandfather telling me stories (or pulling my leg more like) about some of his health and safety experiences during his 40-year career working in the London ports. 

    My grandfather strongly believed that health and safety was a total waste of time as it was ‘common sense’. What made these comments astonishing was the fact that he had hand-arm vibration syndrome and was profoundly deaf.

    Of course, he would excuse his deafness as something that naturally occurs with old age, but in reality the main cause of his deafness was a result of poor decision-making by him and his employer.

    Sound advice

    Most of the time, employers and employees are fully aware of what they should be doing to control and minimize the risk of noise within their business and, therefore, make the right decisions. Unfortunately, there are many people that do not. So, to try to help, we have put together a small list of things both the company and individuals should be doing.

    Employers (the company)

    • Identify the activities that create uncomfortable levels of noise and assess the risks (think about all types of equipment. If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone 2 metres away, then it will need to be assessed);
    • Whatever the risk assessment identifies, you must inform the employees of the findings that directly affect them;
    • Where possible, control the noise at source. Move the item away from people or encapsulate it
    • Ensure employees are told why these changes need to be adhered to;
    • You may need to provide specific training on noise and personal protective equipment;
    • Keep monitoring those areas where noise could be a problem to see if everything is working well;
    • Don’t dismiss health surveillance. Periodic tests can identify if the control measures being used are actually working.

    Employees (the people who may become deaf)

    • Follow the instructions given to you by your employer;
    • Use the control measures correctly that have been put in place;
    • Wear any hearing protection that has been issued. Don’t take any risks;
    • Report any concerns, damages or defects to your site manager or supervisor.

    Statutory obligations

    Noise is no different to other health topics; the key control measure is to avoid working in any area where there is a risk. Sometimes this can be quite difficult.

    This is why there is a big emphasis on the amount of time individuals are exposed to in relation to noise. Two main action values apply:

    Lower exposure action values

    • Daily or weekly exposure of 80dB
    • Peak sound pressure of 135dB

    Upper exposure action values

    • Daily or weekly exposure of 85dB
    • Peak sound pressure of 137dB

    The above figures may confuse some people and without trying to become too technical, it is essential that your noise survey/risk assessment is carried out by a specialist who will not only tell you where all your problems exist, but will also help you in implementing the correct control measures.

    Summary

    Controlling noise in the workplace is not only essential but is also a legal requirement. There are many ways in which temporary hearing loss can be identified. If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions, then it is advisable to notify your manager.

    • Do you have trouble hearing people talking on the telephone?
    • Do you have permanent ringing, buzzing, humming or whistling in your ears?
    • Is your family complaining about the television being too loud?
    • Have conversations become difficult or impossible?

    Colin Nottage
    Director
    Influential Management Ltd
    www.influentialmg.com


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