If you are in the music or entertainment business you have until April 6th 2008 to comply with Noise at Work regulations. Other businesses had to reduce noise by half two years ago. Non compliance may lead to claims for noise induced hearing loss (NIHL).
All businesses must inform workers about the potential risks associated with NIHL and the precautions being taken to minimize the risk. High levels of noise at work can cause hearing loss even though it may take many years to become serious. Young people can be damaged as easily as older people.
When assessing whether your workplace is noisy, consider the following points:
- Is anywhere at work so noisy that people have to shout to each other to make themselves heard? If this is the case there is likely to be a danger to hearing?
- Does anyone go home with ringing in their ears? Again this is a sign of a noise problem.
- Are tools or equipment used which made loud, explosive noises?
- Do people wear ear protection in some areas?
- Noise control may need checking to make sure it is working well enough.
Workers must be informed about the potential risks associated with NIHL and the precautions being taken to minimize the risk. All employees who ask for hearing protection must be given it, and the protection must be maintained and checked regularly. Everyone who uses protection must be trained in its use and the use must be monitored and enforced by management. If people disregard the rules it is important to keep records relating to any disciplinary action and enforcement by management (these might be needed in the event of a claim and could be part of a defence).
Prevention is better than control, so reduce noise where possible. Consider using a noise specialist to measure noise. This needs to be done for all employees exposed to noise on a daily basis. Noise surveys need to be regular, and must be done when there is a change in circumstances or new equipment or processes are introduced. Adequate records must be kept clearly indicating the receipt of all information, instruction and training as well as the issue of personal hearing protection.