Health and Safety - Hearing Loss at Work
Places of work where machinery is used can have the potential to be so loud and noisy that they may damage the hearing of those working nearby. Hearing loss is generally caused through prolonged exposure to loud noise rather than a sudden one-off burst, although either can be damaging to a person's hearing, whether in the short-term or in the long-term.
Not only can a loss of hearing be a problem for a person's day-to-day life such as trying to hear the television, but may even place themselves or others at risk if their hearing is so bad that they fail to hear warning shouts, instructions or even alarms and carry on blissfully unaware as action such as evacuating the premises needs to be undertaken.
Although upgrading machinery may result in newer, quieter machinery (e.g. water or gas cooled rather than noisy air fans), this will often not be an option either because of the cost involved for the company, or because the technology simply does not exist yet and noisy machinery is just an inevitable part of the company's particular process. In this case, certain steps can be taken, such as moving workers further away from the machinery, as the intensity of the noise will be lessened the further away a person is from the source. If a person's workstation is located close to the source, can it be moved further away without compromising safety? i.e. do they need to be located close to the machine to press an emergency stop button if required.
If the machinery cannot be altered or replaced, and a worker cannot relocate to a safe position, then personal protective equipment (PPE) will need to be provided such as ear defenders to ensure that workers are not exposed to damaging levels of noise whilst at work.
In order to determine the level of noise risks in your place of work you will need to perform a noise assessment, as the Control of Noise at Work Regulations mean it is a legal requirement for employers to reduce and control the level of noise in a workplace.