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Noise at Work

28 July 2023

Often wrongly disregarded as trivial, noise at work could have a severe impact on human health. Any unwanted sound around us, or loud discordant or disagreeable sound or sounds can be referred to as noise. While low levels of noise in the workplace are unlikely to cause harm, louder levels of noise can result in permanent hearing damage or loss.


Legislation in Relation to Noise at Work

The General Application Regulations 2007, Chapter 1 of Part 5: Control Of Noise at Work is available legislation to protect workers from noise exposure. This legislation sets down the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from the health risks associated with noise in the workplace.

In addition, the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland has published Noise related FAQ on their website. This is a sound source of information for most Noise related questions.


Signs of Excessive Noise at Work

The effects of very loud noises are often instantly apparent, but damage caused through exposure to lower levels of sound over a longer period of time may initially go unnoticed.

Generally speaking, a person is exposed to excessive levels of noise when:

  • They have to shout to be clearly heard by someone 2 meters away.
  • Their ears are still ringing after leaving the workplace.
  • The noise is intrusive (e.g. a vacuum cleaner) for most of the day.
  • They work in a noisy industry (e.g. construction).
  • There are noises due to impacts such as caused by hammering.


Symptoms of Hearing Damage

Noise is measured in decibels (dB). Environments of 80 dB or more require employers to carry out a noise risk assessment and control methods should be introduced, such as providing information, training and hearing protection. If noise levels are above 85 dB, hearing protection zones should be established and PPE provided to anyone needing to enter a hearing protection zone.

Some of the symptoms of hearing damage are:

  • Temporary hearing loss after exposure to loud noise.
  • Ringing or noises in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Difficulty is distinguishing similar sounding words.
  • Muffled sounds.
  • Background noises making conversation confusing.
  • Having to ask people to speak louder or increase the volume on TVs and radios.


Selecting PPE for protecting against Noise at Work

When selecting PPE, it is important to make sure that the equipment is:

  • selected carefully with sufficient rating for the noise hazard,
  • fitted correctly,
  • compatible with other PPE used by the workforce,
  • properly maintained,
  • worn whenever it is appropriate.

In noise control areas, fire alarms must be supplemented with flashing lights or beacons. In the interest of safety, the wearing of hearing defenders outside the restricted area should be discouraged to make sure employees are aware of sounds around them.


Levels of Noise at Work Control

The Noise at Work control levels are:

1. Identify the hazard and assess the risk. This requires a specialist assessment using a noise meter.

2. Reduce the noise by:

  • designing systems with low levels of noise,
  • choosing machines with lower levels of noise,
  • enclosing equipment in sound proofing material,
  • lagging noisy ducting and pipes,
  • adding acoustic dampening panels on walls and ceilings,
  • having equipment properly and regularly maintained.

3. Reduce exposure to personnel (can the regular job be performed further away from the noise source).

4. Reduce the time the employee is exposed to noise.

5. Mark areas where there is a noise hazard as designated areas of protection.

6. As a last resort, if noise is unavoidable, provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and organise proper training in its use.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

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