Noise in the Workplace [Legistlation Explained]

We’re all familiar with the dangers of noise. It can lead to hearing problems, and in extreme cases, complete hearing loss. What we may not be aware of, is that the government has set up laws to protect workers from noise in the workplace.

That said, as an employer in an industry where your staff could be exposed to excessive noise, you need to be familiar with government regulations that control this part of workplace safety. Keep reading for an in-depth analysis of noise in the workplace:

Noise in the Workplace [Legistlation Explained]

So, what is said to be noise, and why is it bad? Why are the decibel levels of 80, 85, and 87 so important in studies of noise? Let’s first start with the basics:

Measuring Sound

Before we know what ‘noise’ is, let’s first look at how sound is measured in general. Sound is measured in Decibels (dB), with 0 being complete silence, 80 being heavy traffic or a noisy restaurant, 100 being the sound level of a low-flying jet, and 140 being the threshold of pain. The decibel scale is logarithmic. That means that with every 3 dB increment, the sound level doubles while 10 dB is perceived as twice the volume.

When it comes to human beings and their sense of hearing, sound is measured in A-weighted decibels or dBA. This indicates the loudness of sounds as heard by the human ear, and the scale is calibrated to account for the fact that we are not sensitive to low audio frequencies.

C-weighted scales, which represent peak sounds exceeding 100 dB, are also sometimes used. Having said that, the units that are used when discussing hearing loss induced by noise are dBA and dBC.

How Sound is Perceived by Humans: Hearing Explained

The act of hearing, like other bodily processes, is a very complicated one. When sound is made in our surroundings, the outer ear, which looks like a funnel, receives the vibration and transmits it to the middle ear. Here, the vibrations are magnified and then sent to the inner ear, where they force the microscopic sensory cells in the cochlea to move, producing an electrical signal.

The auditory part of the brain then receives this signal and interprets the sound received. When the sound received is too loud, the microscopic sensory cells and cochlea membranes can suffer damage and finally die. That means that noisy workplaces can completely damage the hearing sense of workers, which is why it is crucial to safeguard employees’ hearing when they are working in potentially noisy workplaces.

How Noise Affects One’s Mental and Physical Health

Loss of hearing and tinnitus are pretty serious issues, considering that they are typically irreversible if the inner ear and auditory nerve are affected. They are however not the only cause for concern. There are other additional health problems linked to exposure to excessive noise.

For instance, noise is a primary contributor to workplace stress, according to studies. It can also seriously harm immunological function and lead to chronic issues like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and hypertension. Lastly, noise negatively affects mental health.

What’s a Dangerous Noise Level?

Noise levels that can damage hearing are not just about how loud the noise is but how long a person is exposed as well. As such, we must consider both the duration of exposure and the decibel level when discussing noise levels that can damage hearing. Long-term exposure to 85 dBA can result in irreversible hearing loss, whereas a brief burst of 120 dBA can cause hearing loss right away.

Laws Regulating Noise Exposure

Workplace safety must take all the above into account and establish laws to protect workers. As such, the regulations are clearly stipulated, and it is clear what constitutes a dangerous noise level and what must be done to safeguard employees’ hearing. This legislation actually protects both the employer and the employee.

The Most Recent Order

The most recent directive is The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. It is based on the EU legislature and strives to harmonize employee protection laws across all member states when it comes to health concerns associated with excessive noise exposure.