Excessive exposure to loud noise at work cannot only cause deafness but can also cause stress related illnesses that can end up with personnel having time off due to illness. Employers also have a responsibility to ensure their workforce are not subjected to excessive noise and steps should be taken to limit their exposure. There are several solutions for protecting employees from noise and one of them is to encapsulate noisy machinery inside an acoustic booth if at all possible. If this is not possible then acoustic screens can be used to shield employees from the main source of the noise and as a last resort, ear defenders should be used.
By law, an employer must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that the hearing of employees is protected.
The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed. The following are links to daily and weekly ready reckoners that will help assess the noise levels that workers are being exposed to and help determine if remedial action has to be taken to reduce the noise risk.
More advice concerning excessive noise in the workplace can be viewed on the HSE web site via the following link http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/advice.htm