Decide if a noise assessment is needed
If people have difficulty speaking to each other over approximately two metres then you will need to make a noise assessment. This should take account of others who may be affected as well as your own employees.
Assess the noise
The assessment should be made by a competent person, that is someone who understands the legal requirement and its application to noise at work.
An initial, estimated assessment can be made either by using manufacturers' data, or other reliable information which is available. This would be a 'first step' and would enable you to identify workers who need personal protection straight away.
On multi-contractor sites, the various employers will need to agree who should co-ordinate and agree on the approach to be adopted. Usually the contractor in overall charge of the site takes on this responsibility.
Noise exposure limits
The assessment should determine the action that is required to be taken at certain action values. These relate to:
- the levels of exposure to noise, to workers, averaged over a working day or week
- the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which workers are exposed in a working day
Lower exposure action values
Employees must be informed and provided with hearing protection when they are exposed to noise at or above the lower exposure action values:
- daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB(A)
- peak sound pressure of 135 dB(C)
Upper exposure action values:
If the noise exposure is at or above the upper exposure action values:
- daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB (A)
- peak sound pressure of 137 dB(C)
a) Carry out action to eliminate or reduce the noise at source, so far as is reasonably practicable. Provide hearing protection to employees pending implementation of noise controls.
b) If the noise exposure is unable to be reduced below the upper exposure action value:
- provide sufficient information, instruction and training to employees who may be affected
- provide and ensure that suitable hearing protection is worn
- erect signs to identify hearing protection zones
Maximum exposure limit values:
There are also levels of exposure which must not be exceeded:
- daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB(A)
- peak sound pressure of 140 dB(C)
These exposure limit values take account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection.
The assessment will need to take into account the variation of exposure. Where the exposure to noise varies considerably from day to day, the weekly exposure limit values may be used in place of the daily exposure limit values.
An illustration of the risk assessment process is shown in 'Guidance on noise at work'.
Reducing noise levels
The most effective and reliable way of controlling exposure is by engineering measures at source. This can be achieved by making sure that noise reduction is built into machinery when you are buying it.
Ask for information on machine noise levels before you decide to buy.
Provide hearing protection (ear muffs or ear plugs)
At or above the lower exposure action values, hearing protection should be available on request to workers.
Where it is not possible to reduce or control the noise levels to below the upper action values, hearing protection must be provided and steps taken to ensure that they are worn by all workers who are exposed.
The assessment will need to identify the type of hearing protection that will provide appropriate protection.
Inform workers about their personal noise exposure level
If your noise assessment shows personal exposure at or above the lower exposure action values, 80 dB(A) daily or weekly exposure, or the peak sound pressure of 135 dB(C), workers should be informed that there is a noise hazard and advised what they should do to minimise the risk of hearing damage.
Mark hearing protection zones
Where noise levels are likely to reach an upper exposure action value, 85 dB(A) daily or weekly exposure, or the peak sound pressure of 137dB(C), the area should be identified as a hearing protection zone and marked with signs.
Employees have a duty to:
- wear hearing protection provided when instructed and in the absence of, or pending, noise control
- use any other equipment your employer provides, e.g. machines fitted with silencers. Don't take them off
- take care of equipment with which you are provided. If you discover any defects reducing performance, you should report them
- see your doctor if you think that your hearing has become damaged
Table showing average daily noise exposure:
|Likely daily average noise exposure (LEP,d)
|Agent (up to 50% day on site)
|chipping / drilling
digging / scabbling
|M & E installer
HSE publications are available from the Health and Safety Executive website.
Noise at work on the Health and Safety Executive UK website
The following publications are available from the Health & Safety Inspectorate.
Guidance on risk assessment
Guidance on noise at work
Health and safety in the workplace: a general guide
Information on the contruction personal protective equipment regulations
Management in construction (Jersey) regulations 2016