The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) 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 aim of the Noise Regulations is 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 Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 replace the Noise at Work Regulations 1989.

The changes included:

  • Reducing the exposure levels by 5dB - the "trigger levels" for action were reduced to a lower exposure action level of 80dB, the upper exposure action level of 85dB, with an exposure limit of 87dB on personal noise exposure;
  • The exposure limit allows hearing protection to be taken into account where noise exposure varies from day to day, it may be averaged over a week (rather than eight hours);
  • An employer who carries out work which is liable to expose any employees to noise at or above a lower exposure action value shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risk from that noise to the health and safety of those employees, and the risk assessment shall identify the measures which need to be taken to meet the requirements of the regulationshealth surveillance is required where the risk assessment shows there is a risk to healthsuitable and sufficient training should be provided for employees.

Noise Risk Assessments

Where the daily personal noise exposure is likely to be 80dB(A) or above, a noise risk assessment of noise exposure is to be completed by a "competent person". As a rough guide, a noise assessment is generally required if the employee;

  • is surrounded by intrusive noise for most of the working day;
  • has to raise his/her voice to be heard by someone just two metres away, for at least part of the day;
  • uses noisy powered tools or machinery for more than 30 minutes each day;
  • works in construction, road repair, engineering or manufacturing;
  • causes impacts such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tolls etc;
  • works with explosive sources such as cartridge operated tools, detonators or guns.

Assessments should include sufficient information on both noise levels and work patterns to enable employers to identify whatever action is necessary to reduce exposure and the number of employees affected by it.

Affected employees must be informed and hearing protection provided (at no cost to the employee) if requested.Should employees be likely to be exposed to noise averaging 85dB or more, the employer is required to reduce either the level of the noise or the time the employee is exposed to it. This may be achieved through:

  • job rotation;
  • constructing noise refuges around machine control areas;
  • boxing in noisy machines;
  • changing machines and working methods;
  • placing noisy machines together in a single, sound controlled area;
  • fitting silencers to all exhausts.

If it is not possible or practical to reduce the average noise level (averaged over a week) in any work area to below 85dB, the area must be marked with appropriate signs and no-one must enter the area unless wearing hearing protection.

Once completed, suitable records should be kept. These records should be reviewed either when there has been a significant change in the work to which the assessment relates, or whenever there is reason to believe that the assessment is no longer valid.

Instruction and training

Employers have a legal obligation to provide information, instruction and training to employees concerning occupational deafness. This should include guidance on:

  • risks of damage to hearing that exposure may cause;
  • possible actions to minimise such risk;
  • steps to be taken by employees in order to obtain personal ear protection and;
  • employees' obligations under the regulations.

Further advice

Bradley Environmental offer a wide range of professional Noise Risk Assessments, from noise exposure monitoring to simple acoustic testing like a Noise Survey for a single machine, or a detailed factory noise, warehouse and workplace assessment. 
For more information, please complete our contact form and one of our noise consultants will be in touch.

Additional guidance, available free from the HSE, includes advice and information on the legal duty, how to assess and control noise, how to choose quieter equipment and machinery, different methods of hearing protection and health surveillance. There is also guidance for employees about the risks of exposure to noise, information on when and how to wear protective equipment and how to look after it.

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