Occupational noise is the amount of acoustic energy received by an employee’s auditory system when they are working in the industry. Occupational noise, or industrial noise, is often a term used in occupational safety and health, as sustained exposure can cause permanent hearing damage.

Despite being a well-known hazard, noise at work is still a risk to workers at the start of the 21st century. It is difficult to estimate how many people may be harmed by noise, but with 20 % of workers in Europe being exposed to loud noise (about 40 million workers) the human and economic cost of this hazard is very great.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6 April 2006 (except for the music and entertainment sectors where they came into force on 6 April 2008).

The Noise Regulations aim to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work, which could cause them to lose their hearing and/or to suffer from tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears).

The need to carry out a Noise Risk Assessment is now regulatory in most places of work, both industrial or commercial including;

  • Factories
  • Call Centres & Offices
  • Night Clubs & Bars
  • Train, Air & Road transport services

In conducting a risk assessment, we measure the levels of noise to which workers are exposed. We then assess whether any employees are exposed to noise at or above a lower exposure action value, an upper exposure action value, or an exposure limit value. The employee exposure to noise should then be controlled or eliminated by engineering means and noise control at the source. 

The effects of noise on hearing will depend on:

  • Noise intensity or sound pressure
  • Frequency or pitch of the sound
  • Exposure time
  • Distance from source
  • Individual susceptibility
  • Other factors (life-style, age, disease, genetics and so on).

 

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