The Compliance Requirements for Noise Measurement

You can get a pretty good idea of the ambient noise level to which you may be exposed merely by turning on your smartphone and running one of the numerous apps now available for this purpose. However, while the results might be a convenient way to point out to a neighbour that their music was too loud for comfort, those findings would be of little value should your company ever need to defend a claim for industrial compensation. In practice, noise measurement in the workplace requires specialised equipment and relevant expertise.

The Risk Of Prolonged Exposure to Loud Sounds

Repeated prolonged exposure to excessively loud sounds is now the leading cause of permanent hearing loss. Most of us will have experienced the temporary muffled sound that often occurs when standing too close to a firework or firing a gun without wearing ear defenders. Recovery will generally take a day or two, but further exposures could delay it. Just eight hours of exposure at or above 85 decibels is sufficient to cause permanent loss, which will worsen with each subsequent shift. Conducting noise measurements to assess any risk to your employees can protect them from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and your company from costly compensation claims.

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Noise Mesurement Regulations

Regulations drafted in 1993 by the Ministry of Labour in consultation with the Advisory Council for Occupational Health and Safety define the responsibilities of employers regarding employees who may be exposed to excessive noise in the workplace. Under these regulations, no employer should require or permit an employee to work in an environment subjected to 85 dBA or more. Consequently, it will be necessary to conduct and average ambient noise measurements in suspected hotspots over a nominal 8-hour working day to derive an equivalent continuous rating level. Furthermore, the regulations advise employers to repeat this process at intervals not exceeding two years.

The regulations also state that only an approved inspection authority should conduct the workplace assessment. In turn, the inspectors should use only approved monitoring equipment. Where unacceptably high levels are detected, the inspection authority may offer advice regarding countermeasures. However, employers are obliged to reduce those high noise measurements to safe levels and equip any employees at risk with suitably effective aural protection. They should also take steps to ensure that management and staff are educated regarding the importance of wearing their protective equipment at all times and the dangers of failing to do so.

Procedure For Hiring New Staff

When hiring new staff who may need to work in high-risk areas, arranging for anyone at risk to have an audiogram might be advisable. The results can serve as a baseline against which any future hearing loss claims can easily be substantiated or ruled out. However, while conducting the noise measurements falls within the purview of the industrial hygiene specialist, audiometry does not. Hearing tests are the responsibility of a trained audiologist or an ENT specialist.

One need only look at the increasing frequency of NIHL in teenagers and pre-teens who spend hours listening to loud music through earbuds to confirm the dangers of exposure to loud sounds. The best way to ensure your employees are not at risk of noise-induced hearing loss will be to retain the occupational hygiene specialists at IOH Solutions to conduct a workplace noise measurement exercise.

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