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Noise at Work. Awareness of Noise and Hearing Protection in the University of Sheffield. Scope of the Problem. In the UK there are over 170,000 people with significant work-related hearing damage 14,200 are serious enough affected to receive disablement benefit. Noise is an ancient problem!.

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noise at work

Noise at Work

Awareness of Noise and Hearing Protection in the

University of Sheffield

scope of the problem
Scope of the Problem
  • In the UK there are over 170,000 people with significant work-related hearing damage
  • 14,200 are serious enough affected to receive disablement benefit
noise is an ancient problem
Noise is an ancient problem!
  • Roman poets complained about the racket of iron cart-wheels on the cobbles
what is noise
What is noise?
  • Unpleasant or unwanted sound
  • When unwanted noise gets loud enough
    • It is unpleasant
    • It is distracting
    • It is tiring & stressful
    • Higher levels cause permanent hearing damage
likelihood of damage
Likelihood of Damage

Depends mainly on:

  • Volume (loudness)
  • Frequency (pitch)
  • Exposure time

Can be work exposure, social exposure or both

damage can include
Damage can include:
  • Temporary hearing loss
    • hearing returns after a short period away from noise
  • Permanent hearing loss
    • Permanent damage or destruction of hair cells in the ears.
    • Hearing cannot be restored
signs of developing hearing loss
Signs of developing hearing loss
  • Inability to hear soft or high pitched sounds
  • Trouble understanding conversation at a distance or in a crowd
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Others can hear something you can’t
there is no cure for hearing damage
There is no cure for hearing damage!
  • Normal hearing can never be restored
  • Hearing aids do not restore noise-damaged hearing
  • At best, they help the person a little
frequency of sound
Frequency of Sound

Infra- Normal Ultra-

Sound Sound Sound

noise levels
Noise Levels
  • Ear is most sensitive to normal frequency sound
  • The dBA scale takes this into account when measuring noise levels
measurement of noise loudness is measured in decibels
Measurement of Noise Loudness is measured in decibels

170 dB Jet airliner

120 dB Riveting hammer

110 dB Shouting loudly

70 dB Street sounds

38 dB Quiet bedroom

This is a logarithmic scale – an increase of 1dB means about 30% more noise

what law applies
What Law applies?
  • The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (Commencement date April 2006 except for music industry)
  • The Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974
risk assessment
Risk Assessment
  • Observe procedures
  • Refer to standard data
  • If necessary, measure noise levels
  • Compare with action levels
  • Identify control measures
action and limit values
Action and Limit Values
  • Lower action value (LAV)
    • 80dBA – 8hrs Peak – 135dBA
  • Upper action value (UAV)
    • 85dBA – 8hrs Peak – 137dBA
  • Exposure limit value (ELV)
    • 87dBA – 8hrs Peak – 140dBA
    • Can take account of hearing protection
if your average daily exposure is over 80db a
If your average daily exposure is over 80dB(A)
  • The employer must:
    • Inform you of the risks to your hearing from noise and how you can reduce those risks
    • Make hearing protective equipment available
if your average daily exposure is over 85db a
If your average daily exposure is over 85dB(A)

Your employer must:

  • Try to reduce noise at source
  • Provide hearing protection & insist on its use
  • Identify & sign ear protection zones
  • Conduct noise assessments & keep records of them
  • Provide hearing checks if requested
if your average daily exposure is over 87db a
If your average daily exposure is over 87dB(A)
  • This is a maximum & must not be exceeded
  • Noise to the ear must be reduced
    • Preferably at source
    • Otherwise by hearing protection
control of noise
Control of Noise
  • Preferably eliminate or reduce it at source eg
    • Maintenance & lubrication
    • Anti-vibration mounting
    • Sound absorbing materials
    • Enclosure
    • Reducing exposure time
hearing protection
Hearing protection

Ear Plugs

  • Must be kept clean (many are single use)
  • Must be put in properly (there is a special technique)
  • Generally comfortable to wear especially in hot weather
hearing protection20
Hearing protection

Canal Caps

  • Like in-ear ear plugs on a headband
  • Pleasant to wear
  • Often do not completely seal in the ear
  • Generally not a good idea for >85dB for prolonged periods
hearing protection21
Hearing protection

Ear Muffs

  • Must fit snugly – one size fits most people
  • Generally very effective if worn properly – beware of glasses
  • Tend to be uncomfortable in hot weather
  • Special types available eg. for wearing safety helmets, for workers near high voltage
  • Can be shared but cleaning routine required
hearing protection22
Hearing protection
  • The effectiveness of hearing protection varies according to type, manufacture and correct wearing.
  • Most will reduce noise at the ear by about 15 - 20dBA
  • Don’t over-protect or warnings may not be audible
hearing protection23
Hearing protection
  • Ensure it is suitable for the job
  • Regular maintenance & record keeping required
  • Home-made protectors don’t work (eg cotton wool)
  • Wear it when you are supposed to – you MUST BY LAW
hearing protection24
Hearing protection
  • Try to limit your time in noisy areas
    • Remember the effect is cumulative
hearing protection25
Hearing protection

Protect your hearing in a social context too eg:

  • Loud music
    • Personal stereos
    • Car entertainment
  • DIY & garden tools
don t take noise for granted
Don’t take noise for granted!
  • Hearing damage creeps up on you
  • Once it has happened, there is no cure
further advice
Further Advice?
  • Contact Safety Services
  • The Health & Safety Executive have a useful leaflet which can be found: