The Importance of Sound Surveys in Safeguarding Employees’ Hearing
Preserving the hearing health of employees in noisy work environments such as in manufacturing and construction is both a duty for employers and a smart thing to do to protect your company from industrial compensation claims. These business sectors are frequently characterised by continuous and intermittent noise exposure, arising from the operation of machinery and equipment like punch presses. Even intermittent noise, despite its sporadic nature, can pose significant risks, especially when it surpasses the 85 dB threshold, mandating employers to provide appropriate hearing protection. Businesses are required by law to test the sound levels in working environments down to 80 dB. On construction sites, for instance, the average noise level hovers around 80 dB, akin to the sound emitted by a standard vacuum cleaner.
To assist businesses in determining the necessary hearing protection for their workforce, sound surveys can be easily conducted. These surveys involve the measurement of noise levels, enabling organisations to decide on a course of action on how to mitigate the hazards associated with hearing loss. By taking proper action businesses also reduce the risk of facing compensation claims related to noise-induced hearing impairment.
Regulatory bodies, including the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), have instituted stringent measures to protect employees from occupational noise hazards. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations, fully implemented in 2008, delineate employers’ responsibilities concerning the provision of hearing protection and the establishment of designated hearing protection zones. The regulations were further reinforced in April 2022 with the introduction of new rules pertaining to personal protective equipment (PPE), mandating employers to ensure their employees are shielded from risks associated with noise exposure.
Non-compliance with these regulations is regarded as a criminal offense, and fines may be imposed on employers failing to adhere to the prescribed guidelines. Moreover, employees who experience hearing loss due to workplace noise exposure possess the right to pursue legal recourse against their employers. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) claims have substantial financial implications, with an annual potential claims value estimated at approximately £550 million in the UK. Notably, between 2019 and 2022, an average of 11,000 cases were reported annually to the Health and Safety Executive, ranging from mild tinnitus to complete deafness. In 2021 alone, ten cases of total deafness were attributed to noise pollution within work environments.
To ensure compliance with legally defined noise limits and protect employees’ hearing, organisations have the option to conduct sound surveys. Accredited professionals visit the workplace to measure sound levels across different areas or zones. An obvious indication for the need to conduct a sound survey arises when two individuals are unable to converse without raising their voices, even while standing two meters apart. These surveys facilitate the identification of specific areas posing higher risks of noise exposure for employees, including zones housing intermittent noise sources.
Minerva Hearing offers a basic sound survey performed by accredited personnel utilising handheld devices. The survey encompasses sound tests conducted in various zones, recognising that noise pollution can vary based on distinct workplace environments. Special attention is given to sound peaks, particularly in the presence of repetitive noise sources such as riveting machines (e.g., punch presses). Despite their intermittent nature, these sounds can cause hearing loss akin to that caused by continuous noise sources.
Following the completion of a sound survey, a comprehensive report is generated. This report presents the results of sound tests conducted in different sections of the workplace. Businesses can promptly assess whether noise pollution levels exceed the 80 dB threshold and undertake necessary measures to protect their employees’ hearing, leveraging the insights provided within the report. These protective measures include custom ear plugs which Minerva Hearing manufacture and can advise on while conducting the survey. Multiple types of sound surveys are available, but their fundamental objective remains consistent: identifying risks associated with hearing loss.
Sound surveys serve as indispensable tools for businesses, ensuring compliance with noise regulations, safeguarding employees’ hearing, and mitigating the risks of occupational hearing loss. By conducting sound surveys and acquiring precise data on sound levels and potential hazards, employers can take the necessary steps to create safer work environments. Compliance with regulatory requirements not only mitigates legal ramifications and potential financial losses but also demonstrates a commitment to prioritising employee well-being and health. Through the utilisation of sound surveys, businesses foster a culture of safety and contribute to the overall improvement of noise management practices across diverse industries.
Contact us today if you are interested in a sound survey – Contact us – Minerva Hearing