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What should my employer do to protect me from noise at work?
The main provisions of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 are outlined below:
Regulation 4: Exposure limit values and action values
- The lower exposure action values are: (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80 dB (A-weighted) and (b) a peak sound pressure of 135 dB (C-weighted).
- The upper exposure action values are: (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85 dB (A-weighted) and (b) a peak sound pressure of 137 dB (C-weighted).
- The exposure limit values are: (a) a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87 dB (A-weighted) and (b) a peak sound pressure of 140 dB (C-weighted).
Regulation 5: Assessment of risk created by noise exposure at the workplace
An employer who carries out work liable to expose workers to noise at or above a lower exposure action value (80dBA) must first carry out a risk assessment in consultation with employees and their representatives. The risk assessment must be updated when necessary.
Regulation 6: Elimination or control of exposure to noise at the workplace
Employers must ensure risk from the exposure of workers to noise is either eliminated at source or, if not possible, reduced to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. If any worker is likely to be exposed to noise at or above 85dBA (the upper exposure action value, see Regulation 4 above) the employer must take measures to reduce exposure to as low as reasonably practicable.
These measures must follow the general principles of prevention set out in the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999. They are listed in the Noise and Vibration chapter of the TUC's Hazards at Work health and safety manual.
Regulation 7: Hearing Protection
Employers must make personal hearing protectors available upon request to any employee who is exposed to noise at or above 80dBA (the lower exposure action value, see above).
If an employer cannot reduce levels of noise below 85dBA (the upper exposure action value), personal hearing protectors must be provided to any exposed worker.
Other measures include setting up and then controlling access to hearing protection zones. These are areas where staff can only be admitted if they are wearing hearing protection.
Noise must not exceed the upper limit (the 'exposure limit value') of 87dB(A) of daily or weekly exposure, and peak sound pressure of 140dB, taking into account the hearing protection being worn.
Regulations 8, 9 and 10 include duties upon the employer to maintain the protective equipment, monitor the health of exposed workers and provide information and training to exposed employees.