How rules surrounding noise at work has developed over the years

25 May 2018

There has been knowledge of noise exposure at work for many years however it was not until the 1963 that the first major publication was submitted to consider the same at work. Since 1963 many changes have taken place and new regulations have been introduced to govern noise exposure at work and protect employees.

Noise and the Worker - 1963

The first ever major publication in respect of noise exposure at work was put forward by the minister of Labour in 1963. This publication put forward and highlighted dangers of exposure to noise and made recommendations as to how employers could protect employees from noise exposure. When this publication was first introduced it was not possible to measure the noise levels and the damage that could be caused. This publication simply made employers aware that noise exposure of over 90dB for 8 hours could results in damaging hearing.

Code of Practice for Reducing Noise – 1972

In 1972 a new framework was introduced to assist employers. This code of practice reiterated the points from the 1963 publication. It highlight the need to ensure that employees were not exposed to noise which exceeded 90db. This code of practice also made recommendations as to what could be done to lower the noise levels to below 90db and made recommendations that employers carry out surveys to measure noise levels and provided training and hearing protection to those exposed to over 90db.

Noise at Work Regulations 1989

In January 1990 the Noise at Work Regulations were implemented these regulations set out employers duties and introduced daily personal noise exposure of employees. The daily personal noise exposure was calculated by measuring the amount of noise received during a working day whilst considering noise levels and time spent in that area.

These regulations also set out two action levels;-

  • First Action Level – Employers should provide employees with suitable and efficient hearing protection at the employees request if daily noise exposure is 85db. Employers should also instruct employees of the dangers of noise exposure if exposure was 85db.
  • Second Action Level – If the daily noise exposure is 90db or above the employer must provide employees with hearing protection and the employer must also reduce noise levels as far as reasonably practicable.
  • Peak Action Level – The employer must ensure that noise levels do not exceed the peak action level (140db or above) at any point even if for a short period.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005

The 2005 Regulations are an update on the 1989 Noise at Work Regulations. These Regulations were introduced to prevent/reduce the number of people suffering from Noise Induced Hearing Loss/ tinnitus as a result of working within a noisy environment.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 provide a clear guidance to employers by listing action levels that require certain steps to be taken. We will discuss these levels below;

  • The first action level – if the daily noise average is 80db. The employers must firstly attempt to lower the noise levels. This can be done in many ways such as changing the machines used, modifying the machines the employees are using or fitting absorbing panels. This may help in reducing the noise levels created by the machines/tools to below 80db. If the employer is unable to reduce noise levels they must provide and maintain employers must also educate employees on the dangers of noise exposure and what can be done to prevent it.
  • The second action level – If the average daily noise exposure is above 85db to 87db employer must enforce hearing protection. They must place signs around the premise to advise employees of areas were hearing protection is mandatory (hearing protection zones).
  •  Peak action levels – The average noise levels should never exceed 87db no matter how briefly. This is to prevent exposure to strong impulsive noise.

Measuring Noise Levels

The 2005 Regulations recommend that the noise assessments must be carried out by a competent individual if it is likely that the employees are exposed to the first action level or above. Unfortunately there is no clear guidance as to when these assessments should be carried out but a general rule is that wherever people have to shout or find it difficult to communicate with someone stood approximately 2 meters away the noise assessments must be carried out.

How we can assist

If you feel as though you have been exposed to excessive levels of noise and have not been provided with the necessary protection then we at Curtis Law Solicitors may be able to help. Our specialist team of Industrial Disease Solicitors will provide you with free advice in respect of your potential claim and handle you claim on a no win no fee basis. Please contact our team on 0800 008 7450 or visit our website on