According to HSE data, 14,000 workers reported work-related hearing problems between 2018/19 to 2020/21, with 95 new cases of occupational deafness recorded in 2019. Known as The Noise Regulations, they detail the duties employers have in protecting the hearing of employees and others and creating a safe workplace.
What is noise in the workplace?
While most workplace environments are subject to noise, some industries are more at risk of excessive noise. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 require employers to control noise exposure and ensure employees are not exposed to excessive levels that can bring about work-related hearing problems.
Excessive noise in the workplace includes any noise-generating activities, such as:
- Construction work taking place around people without adequate ear protection.
- Playing loud music near employees in entertainment venues such as bars and nightclubs.
- Using power tools or agricultural equipment without adequate hearing protection equipment.
- Garment making in a textile factory with the workforce operating noisy machines.
Protect employees from the risks of excessive noise in the workplace with our IOSH Approved and CPD Certified Noise Awareness Course. Developed by health and safety professionals, it helps your organisation comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005.
What is the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are in place to protect employees and control the risks that noise presents. To comply with noise laws, employers need to:
- Ensure noise in the workplace doesn’t exceed the legal limits. The legal limit, after which employers must provide hearing protection, is 85 decibels (dB).
- Ensure the equipment provided to employees to control noise is suitable and maintained.
- Provide information and training on noise awareness and instructions on following workplace policies, such as our IOSH Approved and CPD Certified Noise Awareness Course.
- Carry out health surveillance checks and provide mechanisms for employees to check and report hearing problems.
Not complying with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 can mean your organisation is breaking the law and failing its legal health and safety responsibility to its employees.
Who does the Control of Noise at Work Regulations affect?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 covers anyone exposed to noise in a workplace, including employees, contractors, customers and others. While all organisations of all types and sizes are included, HSE provides an insight into which jobs and industries are most likely to be at risk of elevated noise levels, such as:
- Demolition or road repair
- Plastic processing
- Textile manufacturing
- General fabrication
- Forging, pressing and stamping
- Paper or board making
- Canning or bottling
How to comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005
As an employer, it is your responsibility to comply with health and safety regulations that can affect your organisation.
According to HSE, the regulations require an employer to:
- Assess the risks noise could pose to your employees at work.
- When risks are found, take the appropriate action to reduce noise exposure.
- If you can’t reduce the noise, provide your employees with hearing protection.
- Ensure the legal limits on noise exposure aren’t exceeded.
- Provide adequate training, instruction and information.
- Complete health surveillance activities, such as monitoring employee hearing.
Assessing noise risks
Your organisation may need to assess if employees are at risk of exposure to excessive noise where there is a reasonable indication that noise may be harming employees. While individual workplaces vary, warning signs of excessive noise include:
- The noise is intrusive for most of the working day, for example, in a packed restaurant.
- Employees and others need to raise their voices at a distance of 2m to carry out a conversation.
- Employees have to use noisy power tools or machinery for more than 30 minutes a day.
- If your industry/sector is one where noise is a common occurrence, such as woodworking, engineering, and waste and recycling.
Organisations and workplaces that experience high or sustained noise levels should conduct a noise risk assessment. Risk assessments can determine whether there are any noise risks, who is likely to be affected, and what can be done to control risks of excessive noise exposure.
Managing noise risks
Organisations should create a plan to control risks based on a risk assessment. Controlling measures may mean investing in noise-control equipment or limiting the noise employees are exposed to daily or weekly by moving them to quieter working areas or changing working patterns.
Managing the risks of noise should involve employees. Use noise awareness training to create a culture of noise awareness, and encourage employees to report noise issues or hearing issues.
Tips for protecting workers from noise
If your organisation has employees who could be subject to excessive noise levels, HSE recommends:
- Inform employees about the likely causes of noise exposure and why they’re a risk.
- Provide hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.
- Inform employees of the noise regulations and their duties.
- Ensure that they can report faults in hearing protection equipment so they can be fixed.
- Training employees on how to minimise noise exposure and how to look after and maintain any noise-controlling equipment.
- Consulting employees on health surveillance and what it involves, such as hearing checks and hearing records.