noise

Vol. 1, Issue 29 (Sep 05) Stop that noise!!

Noise-induced hearing loss has been recognised as ‘the most prevalent, irreversible industrial disease’. Actually noise at work can cost you much more than your hearing! It can be a causal factor in accidents, contribute to work-related stress, and may act together with other workplace hazards to cause ill health.

Noise at work is still a serious but often underestimated threat to millions of workers. Backed by the European Parliament, Commission and Luxembourg EU Presidency, the campaign, with its slogan ‘STOP THAT NOISE!’, will culminate in the annual European Week for Safety and Health at Work on 24-28 October 2005.

We have signed up to the campaign and offer this NEWS BRIEF as part of our commitment.

Noise goes beyond hearing problems; it can cause workplace accidents and increase stress levels. Workers will get more hearing protection under new measures coming into force in all EU Member States by February 2006 which will set new exposure limit values of 87 decibels for workers’ daily exposure to noise.

Noise is a serious but often neglected work-related risk that can cost you more than your hearing. Prolonged exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing disabilities but noise can also cause or be a factor in:

  • Causing harm to the ears through exposure to dangerous substances
  • Work-related stress
  • An increased risk of workplace accidents
  • Harm to a worker’s unborn child.

Noise-induced hearing loss has been recognised by the World Health Organisation as ‘the most prevalent, irreversible industrial disease’. Hearing loss may not only stop a person working to their full potential; it can destroy a person’s social life, isolating them from the community around them.

Work-related noise is a growing concern across Europe as it directly affects millions of workers not only in heavy industry but also in growth sectors such as services, education and entertainment. One third of Europe’s workers are exposed to high levels of noise for more than a quarter of their working time.

To protect workers, the 2003 EU directive that comes into force in all Member States in 2006, sets a daily noise exposure limit of 87dB(A) and requires that ‘the risks arising from exposure to noise shall be eliminated at their source or reduced to a minimum’.

If persons employed at work have to shout or have to raise their voice to be heard when standing about two metres apart from each other a noise problem exists.

  • If you believe a noise problem at work exists, you must ensure that suitable action is taken.
  • It should be understood that once hearing damage has occurred or has been caused, it might be permanent.
  • Exposure to high noise levels can lead to occupational induced deafness.
  • Effects of exposure is the reduction in the ability to hear in persons and some situations it can result in a permanent ringing sound within the ear, known as “tinnitus”.

The best way to reduce exposure to noise levels to the lowest level that is reasonably practicable is to reduce the noise levels at source.

This can by the following measures: -

  • Providing acoustic enclosures around machinery to absorb and contain noise levels.
  • Substitution with quieter plant and equipment.
  • Locating machinery away from main working areas, where possible.
  • Switching plant and machinery off when not in use.
  • Regularly servicing and maintaining plant and machinery.
  • Inspecting for loose fixings, covers etc on plant and machinery and replacing or fixing to prevent further vibration and noise levels.
  • Purchasing policies should be able to question the supplier of plant and equipment to be able to establish from the supplier / manufacturers about the maximum noise levels which plant, machinery or equipment emits or gives off when on full load.

No ear protection should be issued until a suitable noise assessment has been completed to establish the levels that could be anticipated within the workplace. The assessment should assist and provide adequate information to decide the type and attenuation properties of the ear protection that should be provided.

The ear protection that is supplied should be suitable and sufficient for the purpose for what it is intended for and afford adequate protection to the user and be maintained and / or replaced when and where necessary. The issuing of suitable ear protection should only be considered as a short- term or interim measure until other means of controlling the noise can be accomplished.

The requirements to provide ear protection for noise depends on noise exposure levels. Employees should be advised of the effect of noise exposure at these action levels and they should be encouraged to make proper use of them and to wear them.

Information should be provided to employees on where and how to obtain them, it is up to the discretion of the employees to wear them (for existing levels under the current regulations (1989)).

All ear protection provided for use should be compatible with any other “Personal Protective Equipment”, be comfortable to wear and use when being worn and used.

Information must be provided to all employees on why it is being provided. Where ear protection should be worn, such as the use of warning signs. How it should be worn. How it should be stored when not in use. How and where to obtain replacements if they become damaged, lost of worn.

If earplugs are issued and are of the disposable or re-usable type, employees should be informed of the need to ensure and have in place good hygiene practices. That they are observed and that persons suffering from any ear complaints, such as infections or irritations should not use these types of ear protection.

If employees are experiencing such problems they should consult their Doctor or GP for a medical opinion on whether that type of each protection can be safety used or worn.

If earmuffs are required to be re-used they should be suitably cleaned, disinfected and inspected to make sure that are not un-hygienic or damaged.

Notices must be displayed which state that they are entering an ear protection area or zone and that the employees are required to wear ear protection.

Arrangements should be made for the proper storage or ear protection that is not in use, to protect against being contaminated by grease, oil or dust etc.

A system for checking and inspecting should be introduced to check and ensure that the ear protection that is issued is in good working order and is not damaged or defective.

The employee’s have duties under the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974, generally to wear and take care of any ear protection provided.

Where and how protectors and possible replacements can be obtained.

The noise levels that are likely to be encountered at the workplace and the risks to hearing from exposure.

How and to whom faults in ear protection and noise control equipment should be reported.

Stop that noise

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