How do I know if there is a noise problem at work?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice for employers, Noise at work - a brief guide to controlling the risks , says that having a noise problem at work depends on how loud the noise is and how long people are exposed to it. Both the level and duration of the sound have to be taken into account.

The HSE says you are at risk if you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the following questions:

  • Is the noise intrusive – like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – for most of the working day?
  • Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation with someone about two metres away for at least part of the day?
  • Do you use noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
  • Do you work in a noisy industry, e.g. construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; or foundries?
  • Are you exposed to noises from impacts (e.g. hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc.), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns?
  • Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the next morning?

Remember the '2m rule' – if it is so noisy that you find it difficult to communicate with a colleague who is just two metres away, the noise is loud enough to damage your hearing.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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