As science has progressed, we have come to better understand noise in the workplace and its impact on the hearing of employees, especially in industrial and manufacturing roles. The long term risk of causing irreparable damage is high when the appropriate steps have not been taken to protect individuals. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations (2005) was implemented to provide a legal framework for businesses to act upon.
This legal framework clarifies that businesses have to act to reduce noise, train staff, and provide the appropriate protection for staff exposed to high levels of noise. In addition, the framework also stipulates that employers must regularly complete risk assessments to ensure they are doing all they can to reduce the impact of noise.
How to Risk Assess for Noise
Before any business can implement noise reduction initiatives, they must first assess the risk within the workplace. For example, taking the time to check the production areas will give the best insight into the real levels of risk and a great starting point for any policy that works to support employees’ health and wellbeing.
Businesses that include high-levels of noise production such as engineering, factories, manufacturing and construction will need a thorough risk assessment completed so that the people affected have their needs properly met. To do this, your risk assessment should:
- Give insight into the source of noise and stipulate whether it is an intrusive noise or not.
- Identified the people that are at risk because of this noise.
- Underline the actions that must be taken to ensure compliance
- Share the estimated number of people affected by the noise levels
- Stipulate the people that are at risk because of noise and share the health surveillance that needs to be undertaken to keep their hearing in good condition.
Once these points have been assessed, a report will need to be written and an action plan designed to address the issues found. This action plan must detail the steps that need to be taken, the protection equipment needed and the timeframe that it will be done by. If you do not have a noise assessor within the business, it is essential that you use an external assessor such as Novaacoustics.co.uk to get an accurate picture of what the risks are and what needs to be done.
Make Some Changes
If you identify a risk to the health of your employees when assessing the noise levels, you will need to consider what changes can be made to reduce the level of noise. The best way to do this is to look at the work environment and see if any changes can be made. For example, businesses that take the opportunity to invest in quieter machines, sound-reducing equipment and quiet zones enjoy better results than those who don’t.
Remember that planning is essential to improving noise reduction and that making changes one at a time will allow you the time to cement the required changes as well as afford them. Lots of worthwhile changes can be made without spending too much money, such as reviewing the floor plans to provide quieter workstations for your team – you just have to be willing to find better ways of doing things so that the health of all employees is considered.
Invest in Hearing Protection
Not all businesses are able to reduce noise to a healthy level – especially when the main business activity involves manufacturing, construction or demolition. In these cases, personal hearing equipment must be sourced and issued to the workforce, along with any other noise reduction initiatives that have been introduced.
When investing in hearing protection, it is the employer’s job to ensure that there is enough for everyone, including visitors and replacement units. It is also essential that appropriate and regular training is given to staff to ensure that they are using the protective gear properly. This training can be done in batches, but you will also need to post reminders around the workplace and ensure that there are regular checks on equipment to ensure that it is working properly.
Risk assessing a workplace can be a big job, to begin with, but once you have a baseline and an action plan, you can begin to reduce noise levels and improve employee health and wellbeing. Not only will this result in a happier workforce, but it will likely improve outcomes too.