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How do I determine if I have a noise problem?

13 August 2011 19,713 views No Comment

Making the proper risk assessments and taking precautions to combat high levels of noise from affecting your employees, is a necessary measure to take towards making your workplace as safe to work in as possible. Industrial deafness is often times a permanent condition, and permanent hearing loss will affect every aspect of your employees’ lives, not to mention affect their ability to perform their work tasks properly. As an employer, you also have legal obligations, and steps you must take to assure a certain level of safety in your workplace.

Does your workplace have a noise problem?

Determining if your workplace has a noise problem — and thus harbors the conditions necessary to produce the effects of industrial deafness — is a multi-step process. The first step is to assess how loud the noise is, and what type of noise is present in your workplace. The following types of noise should be considered hazardous for your employees:

  • Noises from loud impacts. This includes hammering, gunshots, and explosives. Many machines also contain elements that “fire,” creating a loud burst of unsafe noise.
  • If workers have to raise their voice to carry on a conversation at 2m or less. If a person has to talk louder than what is natural at this distance, they are in an environment where the noise levels are too high.
  • Intrusive noise of any kind for most of the workday. Whether it is a nosy street, a crowded nightclub, or the constant banging of weights at a gym, intrusive noise is noise that will damage hearing.
  • If your employees use machines or power tools that produce high levels of noise for at least half of their day. There are a number of these tools and machines that produce unhealthy levels of noise.
  • If your industry is any sort of traditionally noisy industry. This includes construction, textiles, and woodworking, among many other industries.

If any of the noise mentioned above is present in your workplace, it is necessary to conduct a risk assessment of the noise in your business and make a plan to take action against any dangerously high levels of noise that you find. You may need to purchase new tools or machines that emit less noise.

Your overall goal as the employer is to provide the safest working environment for your employees to work in. Production is very important to your business, no doubt, but the health and safety of the people that work for you should be your highest priority as you run your business.

Specific things to look for

As you travel around your place of work conducting the risk assessment, there are certain conditions you should be looking for:

  • Locate where any high levels of noise exist, and which employees are being affected by the noise.
  • Find out what your legal obligations are in lowering the noise levels, and find out what kinds of hearing protection are appropriate for the workers working in the high noise areas.
  • What work each group of employees conducts, how they work around that noise, and how it might differ each day or week.
  • It is necessary to document what you find from your risk assessment, and make a plan to take action against any problem areas of particular concern, documenting who you will assign to each task.

You should perform this risk assessment on a regular basis. The absolute maximum amount of time allowable to go between risk assessments is two years. If you wait longer than this, you do not have a good enough idea of the working environment present in your workplace as it pertains to your noise levels. Remember, there are many machines that can be altered in a way that significantly reduces the amount of noise they produce. Read case studies of workplaces where noise has been reduced to a safe level.

It is vital that you, as the employer, are well educated on the hazards associate to industrial deafness, and that you take all of the steps necessary to ensure the safest working environment possible for your employees, otherwise you may become liable to industrial deafness compensation claims. Happy and healthy employees will enjoy their jobs more, and thus produce higher quality products at a faster rate, not to mention lead fuller and healthier lives.

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