Mitigating the Health and Safety Risks from Noise
Noise and damage to hearing is a particularly common workplace health and safety hazard as it is one of those issues which is present in every single place of work in terms of the potential for a loud sound to cause temporary or permanent damage to a person's hearing. As a result it is a topic which is talked about on the syllabus of numerous health and safety courses including the NEBOSH General Certificate, NEBOSH Environmental Certificate and of course various construction site safety courses like the NEBOSH Construction Certificate and SMSTS courses.
Managers need to take appropriate actions to mitigate the health and safety risks from noise to both their employees and members of the public who may be affected by the noise produced by the company's activities. This includes site visitors and nearby residents. Although not a health and safety risk, managers also need to reduce the noise impact upon local wildlife which may be disturbed by the sounds such as nesting birds. In many countries, environmental legislation is in place to achieve this objective.
Mitigating Noise Risks to Employees
As far as their employees are concerned, steps which can be taken to reduce exposure include:
- Job rotation which allows the employee to carry out some quiet work so that they are not bombarded with sound for the entire duration of their shift.
- Providing a noise refuge where employees can get away from noise if they need to and can take breaks in the quiet.
As with other health and safety dangers, managers should first try to eliminate the hazard by either removing the process or taking away the danger by purchasing new equipment which no longer creates a hazardous level of sound. Only when these steps are not reasonably practical should protective equipment such as ear defenders be utilised. It is not enough for managers to just issue Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) without first trying to remove the hazard.