Regulations on noise in the workplace
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) came into place for all UK industry sectors on 6th April 2006, which replaced The Noise at Work Regulations 1989.1
The third edition of these HSE Regulations (issued in 2021) focuses on guidance and further developed best practice, with the assessment of audiometric test results at the heart.
The aim of the Noise Regulations is to ensure that workers' hearing is protected from excessive and persistent noise while at their place of work, as this can damage a person’s hearing and over time eventually lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) or tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears).2
What is the legal noise limit at work?
Sounds at or below 70 dBA are generally considered safe. When daily or weekly exposure levels reach 80 dB(A) employers must assess the risk to employees' health and take appropriate preventative and protective actions where necessary.
Employers are responsible for ensuring the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded. They should also provide their employees with information, and training and carry out health surveillance wherever there is a health risk.
If an employer cannot control or reduce daily or weekly noise exposure of 85 dB(A), or a peak pressure of 135 dB(C) is measured, suitable hearing protection and zones must be be made available.3
It is important to note that there is also an exposure limit value of 87 dB(A), which takes into account any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection. Workers must not be exposed above this level.
How to tell if workplace sound is too loud
As a rule of thumb, if a person is a metre away from another and needs to raise their voice to be heard, the noise level may be around 85 dB(A). Other indicators that the workplace environment is too loud might be:
- Trouble hearing another person talk over the sound
- Raising your voice to be heard
- Ringing in your ears at the end of your working day
- Other sounds seeming muffled or unclear after your working day
How to reduce the level of noise exposure
To reduce the level of harmful noise employees are exposed to, an employer should have a hearing conservation programme in place that includes:
- Noise measurement
- Risk assessment of the measured noise
- Identification of engineering controls to minimise or prevent the noise
- Identifying areas with hazardous noise levels
- Hearing protection – the selection of appropriate PPE
- Education and training in the use of PPE
- Hearing screening tests based upon the risk assessment
- Referral pathway
- Statistical review of hearing tests reports to highlight any areas of concern within an organisation
When do noise regulations not apply?
The 2005 Regulations do not apply to members of the public exposed to noise during their non-work activities, or who make an informed choice to go to noisy places or low-level noise which is a nuisance - but causes no risk of hearing damage.
This can require employers to consider how best to minimise the potential impact of these activities through educational initiatives.
Occupational health training
With the changes and additional workflow outlined in the third edition HSE Regulations, Amplivox would recommend professionals consider occupational health training to familiarise themselves with the latest guidance in best-practice.
Our audiometry competency and refresher courses provide healthcare professionals with important knowledge and practical skills to complete consistent and accurate health screening assessments within the workplace.
Courses are based on a recommended syllabus by the British Society of Audiology (BSA) and the Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) Control of Noise at Work regulations (2021), together with industry-specific requirements.
Each course is accredited by a UK professional and educational body which supports good practice and offers delegates a certain number of CPD points under the accredited programme.
For more information on our occupational health audiometry training courses please visit webpage or contact our customer support team on +44 (0)1865 880 846, or email.
1Health and Safety Executive. Noise Regulations. Accessed at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/regulations.htm
2National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. (Mar 2022) Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Accessed at: https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
3Pouryaghoub G, Ramin R, Pourhosein S. (2017) ‘Noise-Induced hearing loss among professional musicians.’ Occup Health. Jan 20; 59(1): 33–37 Accessed at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1539/joh.16-0217-OA