The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 came into force on 6th April 2006 and replaced The Noise at Work Regulations 1989, which have been in force since 1990. The main differences are:
The two action values for daily noise exposure have been reduced by 5 dB to 85 dBA and 80 dBA;
There are now two action values for peak noise at 135 dBC and 137dBC;
There are new exposure limit values of 87dBA (daily exposure) and 140 dBC (peak noise) which take account of the wearing of hearing protection and which must not be exceeded;
Yhere is a specific requirement to provide health surveillance where there is a risk to health
The following is a brief outline of the Control of Noise at Work Regulations in relation to noise assessments. The reader is strongly recommended to consult the Guides to The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (L108) produced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
Employers' and Employees' duties depend on the levels of noise exposure termed "Exposure Limits and Action Values" in the Regulations, (similar in concept to the Action Levels used in the 1989 Regulations).
The lower exposure action values are -
(a) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure, of 80dBA
(b) A peak sound pressure level of 135dBC
The upper exposure action values are -
(a) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85dBA
(b) A peak sound pressure level of 137dBC.
The exposure limit values are -
(a) A daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87dBA
(b) A peak sound pressure of 140dBC
It should be noted that the exposure limit values take hearing protection into account
Personal Noise Exposure
Personal noise exposure depends upon both noise level and duration of exposure; noise levels may vary from minute to minute, but the noise dose is a measure of the total sound energy to which a worker has been exposed, as a result of working in the varying noise levels. Calculation of an daily personal noise exposure [LEP,d] is based on an equivalent exposure of 8 hours.
When noise exposures vary markedly from day to day, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations allow an employer to use weekly personal noise exposure [LEP,w] in place of daily personal noise exposure.
Peak levels are absolute levels and do not depend on length of exposure. High peak sound pressure levels present a risk to hearing from immediate and permanent hearing loss
Duties Arising from the Assessment
When employees are liable to be exposed to noise at or above a lower exposure action value, employers must make a ‘suitable and sufficient assessment’ of the risk from noise to the health and safety of those employees. An assessment will be suitable and sufficient if it:
a) has been drawn up by someone who is competent to carry out the task
b) is based on advice and information from competent sources
c) identifies where there may be a risk from noise and who is likely to be affected
d) contains a reliable estimate of your employees noise exposures and a comparison of exposure with the exposure action values and limit values
e) identifies the measures necessary to eliminate risks and exposures or reduce them to as low a level as is reasonably practicable
f) identifies those employees who need to be provided with health surveillance and whether any employees are at particular risk
The employer should also prepare an action plan, together with a realistic time scale for achieving these controls. Finally, the risk assessment shall be reviewed when there is reason to suspect that it is no longer valid. For example, there may have been a significant change in the work to which the assessment relates, new noisy machinery installed, altered work patterns and so on.
In general terms the responsibilities/controls required at the various exposure action values and limit values are as follows:
A If employees are exposed to noise levels at or above the lower exposure action value (not taking account of hearing protection):
suitable hearing protectors must be made available
information and training must be provided
health surveillance should be provided where there is a risk to health
B If employees are exposed to noise levels at or above the Upper Exposure Action Value (not taking account of hearing protection):
a programme of technical and/or organisational measures intended to reduce exposure to noise must be established and implemented (these measures cannot include hearing protection)
marking, delimiting and restriction of access to areas is required; i.e. designation of Hearing Protection Zones
the provision and use of hearing protectors is mandatory
health surveillance must be provided
information and training must be provided
C Employers must not permit an employee to be exposed above the exposure limit values (NB taking into account hearing protection).
If these values are exceeded:
immediate action to reduce exposure is required
the reasons for over exposure must be addressed by reviewing the programme of control measures; i.e. technical and organisational controls
the adequacy of any hearing protection supplied and the systems in place to ensure that noise-control measures and hearing protection are fully and properly used and maintained.