Occupational noise exposure

Occupational noise exposure is one of the most significant health and safety hazards at work. Excessive noise at work, as well as accidents owing to noise disruption and communication difficulties, are just a few of the consequences.

The degree of hearing loss is generally cumulative, increasing with both the length of time exposed and the level of noise. While occupational noise-induced hearing loss is almost entirely preventable once acquired the damage is irreversible.

Control of noise at work

The issue of noise at work is not limited to heavy manufacturing industries but also affects a wide range of sectors, including education, entertainment, agriculture, and the service sectors. There are strict noise regulations in line with the EU’s Noise Directive that thoroughly describe how to handle workplace noise. The framework directive establishes the overall guidelines for prevention.

How to prevent occupational noise exposure?

There are several precautions you can take to prevent hearing loss at work:

  • avoid risks or evaluate the risks which cannot be avoided
  • adapt the design of offices and job selection, and organize your work routines and all elements affecting the working environment
  • eliminate the threats at their source, for example, replace the hazardous equipment with less dangerous options
occupational noise exposure

Is the earplugs solution the only answer?

No, there should not be a reliance on personal hearing protection (such as earplugs) when there are other measures available to remove or control the risk. Employers are required to address or reduce noise hazards at the source and should notify employees of the risks and provide them with hearing protection options.

Workplace noise testing

ISO 1999:1990 is the standard for measuring exposure to noise among workers. The goal of noise measurements is to verify action levels set at 80, 85, and 87 decibels. Each action level defines what measures must be taken to avoid hearing loss among employees.

Sound level meters such as SV 971A or noise dosimeters like SV 104 are used to measure workplace noise.

Occupational noise exposure values and actions

Lower exposure action value = 80 dB(A)

  1. Workers shall receive information and training on the risks resulting from noise exposure.
  2. Preventive audiometric testing shall also be available for workers where the assessment and measurement provided for indicating a health risk.
  3. If the risks arising from exposure to noise cannot be prevented by other means, suitable, properly fitting individual hearing protectors shall be made available to workers

Upper exposure action value = 85 dB(A)

  1. Employers must implement a program to reduce noise exposure.
  2. Noisy workplaces shall be marked with appropriate signs to warn workers of the noise levels.
  3. Workers must be allowed to consult with a doctor about their hearing.
  4. If the risks arising from noise exposure cannot be prevented by other means, appropriate, properly fitting individual hearing protectors shall be made available to workers and used by them.

Exposure limit value = 87 dB(A)

  1. Under no circumstances should the worker’s exposure exceed the permissible limit value.
  2. The employer shall take immediate action to reduce exposure to below the exposure limit values.

Have you already seen this article: Control of noise at work regulations 2005.  It’s worth a read!