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How can Noise Risks at Work be Reduced or Removed?

Over the last three years, on average there were an estimated 11,000 cases of hearing problems each year caused or made worse by work, according to the Labour Force Survey.1

Noise levels can be a major factor in work-related injuries and long-term conditions, and it’s important to understand as an employer what you can do to reduce or remove the risk to employees.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 state that it is the employer’s duty to remove or reduce risks to health and safety from noise and use hearing protection zones where necessary, which are designated areas of the workplace where access is restricted and where hearing protection is compulsory.

The regulations require you as an employer to:

  • Assess the risks to your employees from noise at work
  • Take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks
  • Provide your employees with hearing protection if you cannot reduce the noise exposure enough by using other methods
  • Make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
  • Provide your employees with information, instruction and training
  • Carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

There are strict legal exposure limits with regards to noise levels at work. Short-term exposure to excessive noise produces varying degrees of inner ear damage that is initially reversible but can become permanent through regular exposure. The peak sound pressure anyone can be exposed to is 137 decibels, while there are daily or weekly exposure limits of 87 decibels2 and exposure action values set at 80 and 85 decibels.

Whether your team work on a glass bottling line, with freezers or wheeled trollies or are involved in milling and sawing operations, the risk to health and hearing is clear, so it’s important to have a good idea of the noise hazards around them.

Once the noise risk has been recognised, formal measures are required to reduce exposure to it. They must be implemented whenever an employee’s exposure to noise is likely to exceed the upper exposure action values of 85 decibels for daily or weekly exposure, or a peak sound pressure of 137 decibels. But remember, hearing protection should only be used as a last resort where there are risks to health and safety that cannot be controlled by other means.

As a priority, establish whether the noise exposure can be prevented or reduced by:

  • Using quieter equipment or a different, quieter process
  • Bringing in engineering/technical controls to reduce, at source, the noise produced by a machine or process
  • Using screens, barriers, enclosures and absorbent materials to reduce the noise
  • Redesigning the layout of the workplace to create quiet workstations
  • Limiting the time people spend in noisy areas
  • Introducing a purchasing policy for low noise machinery and equipment
  • Regularly maintaining the machinery and equipment that takes account of noise

While risk remains, an employer must make hearing protection available upon request to any employee likely to be exposed above the lower action value and provide hearing protection to any employee likely to be exposed above the upper action value.

For more expert advice on noise prevention, please visit:

As experts in safety, Arco can offer noise and hearing solutions across the full hierarchy of control, including identifying they hazards with risk assessment support, workplace site surveys to assess and monitor noise, hearing protection products, noise awareness training and ear fit testing, helping you to ensure you are fully compliant.

Our online Noise Awareness training course is aimed at all levels of employees who may be exposed to noise or managing noise in workplaces and will give both managers and employees an improved awareness of the risks associated with noise and how these can be reduced or removed. View all our training courses here: