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Noise at work

This British Safety Council guide provides an overview of employers’ legal duties to tackle the health and safety risks from noise at work and offers some basic advice on practical noise control measures.

UK employers have a strict legal duty to eliminate or reduce risks to their employees’ health and safety from exposure to loud noise at work. This means protecting employees both from the risk of suffering hearing damage and from risks to their safety, such as loud noise affecting their ability to hear approaching vehicles or warning sounds.

According to the HSE, hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work is preventable – providing employers take appropriate steps to control noise exposure. These might include: selecting quieter tools, machinery and equipment; using engineering controls to reduce the noise produced by a machine or process (for example, adding ‘damping’ materials to a machine’s panels to stop them vibrating and creating noise); limiting the time workers spend in noisy areas; and providing employees with suitable personal hearing protection.

The guidance provides a summary of employers’ duties to prevent or reduce risks to workers’ health and safety from exposure to noise at work. It also provides some basic, introductory tips of ways of reducing noise exposure. It is based on guidance from HSE and focuses generally on ways of controlling noise in industrial and commercial workplaces, such as factories, workshops and in construction.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to eliminate or reduce risks to health and safety from noise at work. This means both the more obvious risk of noise-induced hearing damage from exposure to loud noise and the safety hazards. For example, noise at work can interfere with workers’ ability to communicate and make it harder to hear important warning signals, messages and sounds, such as the noise of approaching mobile machinery and traffic.

In general, under the Control of Noise at Work Regulations employers must:

  • Assess the health and safety risks to employees from noise at work, if noise is liable to be at or above the lower action exposure values set out in the regulations.

  • Take action to reduce noise exposure (depending on the level of risk).

  • Provide employees with hearing protection, if noise exposure cannot be sufficiently reduced by using other methods.

  • Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded.

  • Ensure the correct use and adequate maintenance of any equipment provided to control noise risks.

  • Provide employees with suitable information, instruction and training on noise risks and the necessary precautions to take.

  • Carry out suitable health surveillance (that is, monitoring of employees’ hearing ability) where there is a risk of hearing damage.

Information given by the guide includes coverage of action and limit values, lower exposure action values, and upper exposure action values.

British Safety Council March 2023

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Noise at work
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