How to protect your employees from industrial noise exposure
There are many significant risks associated with exposure to industrial noise in the workplace. From long-term hearing damage caused by prolonged exposure to unacceptable noise levels to – in some cases immediate – injury resulting from sudden intense noises, such as explosions or very loud impacts.
In addition to providing an unsafe, unpleasant atmosphere for your employees, failure to protect against injury and distress as a result of unacceptable noise levels can leave you open to legal proceedings that could threaten the very existence of your business. Here are the key steps you need to take to ensure your workplace abides by the noise at work regulations.
Conduct a noise assessment
A thorough noise assessment should be conducted by a qualified person or contractor, and should cover both the loudness and the frequency of noise exposure during working hours. You should be able to identify where noise exposure is an issue, and which of your employees could be affected.
Educate your employees
As a Safety Officer or business owner it is your responsibility to educate your employees on the dangers of industrial noise exposure. You should also identify any employees who may be at higher risk, either due to the nature of the work they do or any pre-existing health conditions they may have, and provide relevant training to ensure that your team are taking all of the required precautions.
Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Protective equipment such as ear defenders should be provided to employees. These should be regularly checked for quality and replaced or upgraded as needed.
Reduce noise wherever possible
High noise levels are present in many workplaces. In most cases you can significantly reduce industrial noise using engineering methods. The lowest cost solutions work by reducing or eliminating the noise at source. Some techniques isolate the problem, especially where vibration is the main cause. Other, more costly, methods include noise control enclosures, acoustic absorbers and industrial silencers, which work by insulating or absorbing high sound levels and / or improving the acoustics in the workspace.
Even with access to protective equipment, employees should not be exposed to high levels of industrial noise for any longer than necessary. Effectively controlling noise exposure may involve changing your processes, limiting the use of noise-creating equipment or encouraging employees to take regular breaks and share the work so that no one member of the team is forced to work in a highly affected environment for too long. However, in practice this has only a tiny effect on workers’ noise exposures in most cases. For example, halving the length of exposure to a high noise level reduces a worker’s daily noise exposure by only 3 dBA.
Monitor your workspace
Simply taking a few initial steps to address industrial noise exposure isn’t enough. As a Safety Officer it is your responsibility to regularly review and monitor any measures you have taken to ensure that they remain effective. In-depth noise assessments should be carried out on a regular basis, and all equipment should be well maintained and repaired or replaced as and when it becomes necessary.
At Advanced Noise Solutions Ltd, we specialise in providing low cost noise reduction technology for a wide variety of industrial applications. Our noise reduction solutions are designed to protect employees while retaining high levels of visibility and good access to machines, in some cases even improving overall performance and productivity.