Noise Awareness in the Workplace

Do your employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day? If so, there may be a noise problem in your workplace.

Do any of these situations apply to you?

  • Is the noise intrusive – like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – for most of the working day?
  • Do your employees use noisy powered tools or machinery for more than half an hour each day?
  • Do you work in a noisy industry, eg construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging, pressing or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries?
  • Are there noises due to impacts (such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc).

Did you know hundreds of thousands of people in the UK have experienced hearing difficulties as a result of their work?

Loud sounds can damage sensitive parts of the ear, causing hearing loss, ringing or buzzing in the ear or tinnitus, and increased sensitivity to sound, also known as hyperacusis. Crucially, repeated exposure to loud noise over prolonged periods of time affects how well you hear later in life and how quickly you develop hearing problems, even after the noise exposure has stopped.

The Health Effects of Noise at Work

Noise at work can cause hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent. People often experience temporary deafness after leaving a noisy place. Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this should not be ignored. It is a sign that if you continue to be exposed to the noise your hearing could be permanently damaged. Are you aware that permanent hearing damage can be caused immediately? It could be from sudden or extremely loud noises.

Generally in the workplaces,  hearing loss is gradual due of prolonged exposure to noise. It is often the case that damage caused by noise over the years combined with hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become.

Having regular Risk Assessments ensures that this issue is addressed, monitored and mninised. Legislation requires any employer who intends to perform work that will likely expose the workforce to excessive noise, to complete a risk assessment that outlines how this will affect health and safety. It must also identify the necessary measures that will be taken to ensure noise levels meet the requirements of the regulations.

Noise Risk Assessments


A Noise Risk Assessment usually includes:

  • Identifying the noise risks and the people around who are likely to be affected;
  • A reliable assessment of employees’ exposures, and compare the exposure with the exposure action values and limit values;
  • Determining what a company or organization should do to comply with the law; for example noise-control measures or hearing protection requirements and;
  • Identifying any employees who need to be protected with health surveillance and whether any are at particular risk.

Employer Duties

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires an employer to:

  • Assess and identify techniques to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise to protect the hearing of employees.
  • Provide hearing protection where it is required. Provide other controls where required and ensure proper usage.


Your employer should be looking at:

  • Using quieter equipment or a different, quieter process;
  • Engineering/technical changes to reduce the noise at source;
  • Providing quiet workstations within the workplace
  • Improved ways of working to reduce noise levels
  • Limiting the time you spend in noisy areas. 

 What Role Do I, the Employee Have?

  • Work together with your employer to do what is needed to protect your hearing, and those of others. Make sure you use properly any noise-control devices (eg noise enclosures), and follow any working methods that are put in place.
  • Wear any hearing protection you are given. Ensure you are wearing it properly (also note, that you should be trained how to do this), and make sure you wear it all the time when you are doing noisy work, and when you are in hearing protection zones. It is shown that by taking off the ear protection device, even for a short period can still reduce the overall protection you get, meaning your hearing could still be damaged. Ensure you are wearing it at all appropriate times.
  • Attend your hearing checks It is in your interest that any signs of damage to your hearing are detected as soon as possible, and certainly before the damage becomes disabling. Report any problems to your employer about the noise-control devices or your hearing protection straight away. 

Our Alpha Compliance Training course provides you with information on your responsibilities under relevant noise legislation and will teach you how to carry out a risk assessment, assess noise control measures, and implement further changes to prevent harm from coming to employees. Contact us if you are interested in a free trial.

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