What is the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005?

What is the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005?

Introduction

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are a set of regulations that aim to protect workers from the harmful effects of noise exposure in the workplace.

These regulations require employers to take steps to reduce the risk of hearing damage to their employees and to provide them with appropriate hearing protection if necessary.

The regulations set out specific duties for employers and employees, as well as exposure limit values and action values that must be adhered to.

Compliance with these regulations is important for employers to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees, as well as to avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Who Hearing Loss Affects

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 5% of the world’s population or 430 million people require rehabilitation to address their disabling hearing loss.

It is estimated that by 2050, over 700 million people or 1 in every 10 people will have disabling hearing loss.

In the UK, it is estimated that there are approximately 11 million people with hearing loss, making it the second most common disability in the country.

Nearly 42% of those aged over 50 years have hearing loss, increasing to about 71% of people aged 70+.

Hearing loss is associated not only with mental health conditions but also with numerous physical health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, anaemia, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnoea, balance problems and an increased risk of falls.

Doctor inspecting man's ear

What are the requirements of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005?

Duties of employers under these regulations

According to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employers have several duties to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. These duties include:

  • Assessing the risks to employees from noise at work.
  • Taking action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks.
  • Providing employees with hearing protection if the noise exposure cannot be reduced enough by using other methods.
  • Making sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded.
  • Providing employees with information, instruction, and training.
  • Carrying out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

It is important for employers to comply with these regulations to ensure the safety of their employees and avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Duties of employees under these regulations

According to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, employees also have duties to ensure their own safety and well-being. These duties include:

  • Cooperating with their employer to ensure compliance with the regulations.
  • Properly using any hearing protection provided by their employer.
  • Reporting any defects in hearing protection equipment to their employer.
  • Attending health surveillance appointments if required.

It is important for employees to comply with these regulations to ensure their own safety and well-being, as well as to avoid penalties for non-compliance.

Man wearing ear defenders in noisy work environment

Exposure limit values and action values

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 set out specific exposure limit values and action values that must be adhered to.

The exposure limit values are the maximum levels of noise exposure that employees can be exposed to in the workplace, while the action values are levels at which employers must take specific action to reduce the risk of hearing damage to their employees.

The exposure limit values are a daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB (A) and a peak sound pressure of 140 dB ©, while the lower exposure action values are a daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB (A) and a peak sound pressure of 135 dB ©.

The upper exposure action values are a daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB (A) and a peak sound pressure of 137 dB ©.

It is important for employers to comply with these exposure limit values and action values to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

How do the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 impact employers?

Impact of regulations on employers

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work.

The regulations came into force for all industry sectors in Great Britain on 6 April 2006, except for the music and entertainment sectors where they came into force on 6 April 2008.

The regulations require employers to assess the risks to their employees from noise at work, take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks, provide their employees with hearing protection if they cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods, make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded, provide their employees with information, instruction and training, and carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

The regulations do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise from their non-work activities, or making an informed choice to go to noisy places; low-level noise that is a nuisance but causes no risk of hearing damage.

Penalties for non-compliance

If an employee believes that their employer has breached the regulations, they can file a complaint with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The HSE can investigate the complaint and take enforcement action against the employer if necessary

Employers who fail to comply with the regulations can face enforcement action, including fines and prosecution. For example, in 2019, a company was fined £50,000 after failing to protect its employees from exposure to noise levels that could cause permanent hearing damage.

Individuals may decide to take a company to court incurring costly legal fees, out of court settlements and compensations. Aside from the financial damage, there is also reputational damage to consider.

Staff are more productive when they feel safe, a company that isn't protecting their staff may also have morale and productivity issues as a side-effect.

Woman placing ear plug in ear to protect from loud noise at work

What steps do employers need to take to comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005?

Steps employers need to take to comply with the Control of Noise at Work regulations

If your organisation has reason to believe that employees are at risk of exposure to excessive noise, it may need to conduct a noise risk assessment.

Warning signs of excessive noise include the noise being intrusive for most of the working day, employees and others needing to raise their voices at a distance of 2m to carry out a conversation, employees having to use noisy power tools or machinery for more than 30 minutes a day, and 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

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), employers must take the following steps to comply with the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005:

  1. Assess the risks to employees from noise at work.
  2. Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks.
  3. Provide employees with hearing protection if the noise exposure cannot be reduced enough by using other methods.
  4. Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded.
  5. Provide employees with information, instruction, and training.
  6. Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

The HSE provides additional resources to help employers comply with the regulations, including guidance on how to assess the risks, how to protect workers, how noise is measured, and more.

Do Sound Level Meters/Dosimeters Comply with the Regulations?

The issue with a sound level meter or a dosimeter is that you are taking a sound reading in one area at one point in time. This doesn't always give you a true indication of the noise exposure each individual worker is being exposed to in your workplace.

This is where a wearable device like spacebands comes in handy; the noise monitoring feature on the spacebands wearable allows companies to set the decibel threshold they are comfortable with for their workers.

In addition to alerting the wearable user to exposure over the set limits, the device will also measure exposure over time and alert the user if they need to take a break from a noisy area or if they need to wear PPE such as ear defenders or ear plugs.

Another feature offered by spacebands is the PPE Prompt feature, which will remind workers entering a certain area that they should be wearing PPE whilst in that area.

You can book a demo to learn more about the spacebands solution and how it can help enable companies to not only comply with the Control of Noise Regulations 2005 in your workplace, but to keep a record of your compliance.

Examples of how employers can reduce noise exposure in the workplace

Employers can take several steps to reduce noise exposure in the workplace. Here are some examples:

  1. Engineering controls: Employers can use engineering controls such as sound barriers, mufflers, and vibration dampeners to reduce noise levels.
  2. Administrative controls: Employers can implement administrative controls such as job rotation, limiting the duration of exposure, and scheduling noisy work during off-hours.
  3. Personal protective equipment (PPE): Employers can provide their employees with PPE such as earplugs, earmuffs, and noise-cancelling headphones to reduce noise exposure.
  4. Regular maintenance: Employers can ensure that machinery and equipment are regularly maintained and lubricated to reduce noise levels.
  5. Training: Employers can provide their employees with training on how to use PPE correctly, how to identify hazardous noise levels, and how to report noise-related problems.

Ear defenders available in workplace

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Noise Regulations 2005) require employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work.

Employers must assess the risks to their employees from noise at work, take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks, provide their employees with hearing protection if they cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods, make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded, provide their employees with information, instruction and training, and carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Employers who fail to comply with the regulations can face enforcement action, including fines and prosecution.

It is important for employers to comply with these regulations to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees.

By following the steps outlined in the regulations, employers can reduce the risk of hearing damage and other health problems caused by excessive noise exposure in the workplace.

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