This is the third edition of HSE's L108, which is aimed at employers and other dutyholders and includes the Control of Noise at Work Regulations alongside guidance on what they mean, setting out an employer’s legal obligations to control risks to workers’ health and safety from noise.
It also gives detailed advice on assessing risks, practical noise control, how to select and use hearing protection, what to consider when buying and hiring equipment and how to develop health surveillance procedures.
Hearing damage caused by exposure to noise at work is permanent and incurable.
Many people are exposed to noise levels at work that may be harmful. There are many new cases of people receiving compensation for hearing damage each year, through both civil claims and the government disability benefit scheme, with considerable costs to industry, society and, most importantly, the people who suffer the disability.
Hearing loss is usually gradual due to prolonged exposure to noise. It may only be when damage caused by noise over the years combines with normal hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become. Hearing damage can also be caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud noises. Exposure to noise can also cause tinnitus, which is a sensation of noises in the ears such as ringing or buzzing. Tinnitus may occur in combination with hearing loss.
Noise-related damages are entirely preventable if:
Employers take action to reduce exposure to noise and provide personal hearing protection and health surveillance to employees.
Manufacturers design tools and machinery to operate more quietly.
Employees make use of the personal hearing protection or other control measures supplied.
The Noise Regulations
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) came into force in April 2006. They do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise from their nonwork activities. Regulations requiring control of noise at work have been in force since 1990, but for some workplaces noise regulations have been around for much longer, eg woodworking since 1972.
The duties in the Noise Regulations are in addition to the general duties set out in the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (the HSW Act).
The Noise Regulations are designed to protect against risks to both health and safety from exposure to noise – the health risk of hearing damage in those exposed, and safety risks such as noise affecting the ability to hear instructions or warning sounds.
Updates to L108
This guidance has been updated to reflect changes to related legislation, technical advances and experience. The layout of this revision has been modified to emphasise that the priority is for control of exposure and risk. There are also changes in related legislation that have required minor changes to the Noise Regulations, eg Regulation 2(1), Regulation 3(3) and Regulation 7(4), but no changes to HSE’s policy on the control of noise.
Part 1 includes the Noise Regulations, together with guidance on what they mean. It sets out the legal obligations of employers to control risks to workers’ health and safety from noise.
Parts 2–6 include more detailed advice on how to assess risks, practical noise control, how to select and use hearing protection, what to consider when buying and hiring equipment, and how to develop health surveillance procedures.
L108 is available here.
HSE August 2021