Noise Policy / Procedure

This is the full text of a suggested procedure for managing noise safety at work. You can open the linked Word document or just copy and paste the text below into any document. The Word document can be downloaded here: Managing Noise Policy.


Managing Noise Company Policy

1. Introduction

COMPANY NAME recognises that noise risks are present in the workplace and pose a long-term ill health risk, particularly as any effects are often not noticeable in the short and medium term meaning developing issues may go unnoticed for many years. 

As such COMPANY NAME take a proactive approach to managing the noise risks at work to ensure the ongoing safety and wellbeing of all personnel who may be exposed to noise risks as a result of our undertaking, including employees and contractors who may be working on our site.

1.1 Definitions

Although ‘volume’ is not strictly accurate when referring to the sound pressure levels associated with noise, it is the term commonly used and understood and is therefore the term used within this document.

2. Procedure

Assessment of noise risks

Where there is any reason to believe that the noise level is approaching a volume which has the potential to cause risk in the workplace, we will ensure that a noise assessment is conducted by a competent person. 

A ‘competent person’ is defined by COMPANY NAME as someone holding the Institute of Acoustics Certificate of Competence in Noise Assessment, or similar course such as that offered by IOSH. One-day courses in noise assessment are not considered proof of competence, nor is NEBOSH Diploma or equivalent without extensive subsequent work in noise safety.

We shall determine if a noise assessment is needed by any one or more of the following indicators:

  1. If it is hard for two people to follow a conversation when standing approximately two meters apart.
  2. If noise measurements made by a Type 3 noise meter, or a noise measurement app on a phone, show average dB(A) levels to be around 80dB(A). (80dB(A) is set as the trigger due to inherent inaccuracy in both these measurement methods).
  3. Data supplied by the equipment manufacturer indicates in-use noise levels which will be at 80dB(A) or above.
  4. Reports or complaints about noise made by employees.

Conducting a noise assessment

All noise assessments shall be conducted using a Type 1 or Type 2 noise meter, supported by wearable meters if appropriate. All meters must be within current calibration.

It is not the intention of this procedure to set out exactly how a noise assessment shall be conducted as this will vary depending on the task(s) being assessed, however the basic principles which shall be adhered to are:

a.   All results shall be personnel- or job-based. 

b.   A map of the premises with associated noise levels (a ‘noise map’) will not form part of the noise assessment as this is location-based rather than personnel-based.

c.    The meter(s) must be subject to on-site calibration before each noise assessment session, using a portable calibrator. The results of this must be included in the noise assessment report as proof of the validity of that batch of results.

d.   All results shall include, as a minimum, dB(A) values for a calculated eight hour time period, and dB(C) peak values.

e.   While it is required that all results are calculated for the reference eight hour time period, this does not mean that all measurements shall be made over an eight hour period. Measurements shall be made for sufficient length of time to enable a reasonable measurement of the noise levels present to be obtained with the eight-hour element being calculated subsequently.

f.     A hand held meter will take priority over wearable meters in all cases except where specific circumstances dictate otherwise, for example highly mobile personnel, personnel working on tasks where a hand-held meter is not practicable, etc. This is due to the inherent unreliability of wearable noise meters compared to hand-held, for example accidental or deliberate interference or the issues arising from the assessor not observing the causes of the noise generation and therefore being unable to accurately identify it and any associated potential reduction measures.

g.   Employees conducting similar tasks may be grouped rather than measurements being made for every individual. However, all individuals working at the time of the assessment will be observed for variances in behaviour which may impact their own personal noise exposures.

h.   A noise assessment must include recommended means of reducing the noise exposures measured. This is an integral part of the noise assessment and a noise assessment will not be considered complete without it.

Training

Anyone who works in an area identified as having a noise level over 80dB(A) shall be provided with noise awareness training. This shall include: 

  1. Nature of noise and its risks - a basic section on what noise is and what it can do to hearing.
  2. Organisational controls for noise - what the employer is doing to try and control exposures to high noise via something other than hearing protection. 
  3. The noise exposure limits - what the limits are, namely the 80 dB(A) / 135 dB(C) and 85 dB(A) and 137 dB(C) elements of the noise regs.
  4. The noise assessment - any significant findings from the noise assessment.
  5. Hearing protection - where they can get hearing protection at work and importantly, how to wear it correctly.
  6. Detecting hearing loss - how they can detect signs of hearing loss and what to do about it if they do notice it. 
  7. Audiometry - a section on the entitlement to hearing tests if the upper limits of 85 dB(A) or 137 dB(C) are met. Also the collective results of any previous hearing testing programmes but if used this must be anonymous.

This training does not automatically expire but shall be repeated when there is reason to believe it is no longer valid, for example, an observed increase in the number of non-compliances with the use of hearing protection in the workplace. 

Agency staff and long-term contractors will be included in the training programme.

Health Surveillance

Any employee identified as having a noise exposure which is regularly exceeding 85dB(A), excluding the effect of any hearing protection, shall be subject to the company’s health surveillance programme.

The company shall arrange, either internally or externally, for a programme of workplace audiometry to cover all affected employees. This shall be a managed by one nominated individual within the company who will be the only person with access to any subsequent medical records. 

In accordance with the HSE’s L108, any medical records arising from this programme shall be maintained securely and importantly, separate from any HR records the employer may hold.

The audiometry programme shall be conducted in accordance with the guidelines for Pure Tone Audiometry issues by the British Society of Audiology, including as a minimum:

  1. Pre-test questionnaire.
  2. All equipment subject to daily verification / calibration check and this included in the report.
  3. Otoscopic examination of the ear (speculae shall not be used for more than one person unless sterilised first. Wiping down with an antibacterial or alcohol wipe is not acceptable). 
  4. Conduction of pure tone test in a suitably quiet environment.
  5. Explanation of the results to the employee.
  6. Provision of all results to the employer including category, any recommendations AND the audiogram / table of results per frequency for each person. These results will be maintained by the employer and not any external provider to ensure they are available in subsequent years. 

Any agency staff will be subject to an audiometry programme as provided by their employer, in this case the Agency.

General provisions

All noise meters used must be within their two year calibration window.

Any audiometer used for the health surveillance shall be within its one year calibration window.

The noise assessments shall be repeated: 

  1. When there is reason to believe that the assessment or part of the assessment is no longer valid, for example arising from equipment changes, changes to working patterns or shifts or alterations to the structure of the workplace. 
  2. On the introduction of new machinery or equipment into the workplace which may cause an increased risk.

An annual review of the noise assessment shall be undertaken each year. This will be a check to ensure that nothing has changed which may impact on the noise levels. This may be undertaken by anyone with knowledge of the workplace and it must be documented that this took place, even if just to record the date and that no changes are identified. This provides proof of ongoing management of the issues.

As a safeguard against slow changes, noise assessments shall be repeated from scratch at least every five years. Although noise assessments do not expire, issues such as equipment wear over time or panels becoming loose can give rise to changes in the noise exposure levels.

Contractors will be provided with a copy of the noise assessment as appropriate for the locations they may be working in.