Friday, 25 February 2011

Noise at Work: the need for Hearing Protection.

Research shows that more than one million employees in Great Britain are exposed to levels of noise that put their hearing at risk. The louder the noise, the more damage it can cause, and may even create long term damage to our senses.
A lot of us are exposed to noise in the workplace, ranging from a construction or engineering worker surrounded by loud equipment, to a shop assistant in a store with background music. What has to be addressed is what makes noise in a workplace a danger and what measures are to be taken to reduce the risk of exposure, in turn preventing long term damage to the employees.
When does noise start to present a serious hazard? Put simply, if someone has difficulty in hearing another person talking, or has to shout to be understood at a distance of one or two metres, it’s likely that the noise levels are in the danger zone.
The risk to hearing is permanent damage, and how quickly the damage displays itself is down to the nature of the exposure to noise. For example, exposures over a long period of time can cause hearing loss progressively. In contrast, some damage can be caused immediately when exposed to peak sound waves produced by highly percussive sounds.
As with all risks the obligation of the employer is to ensure that all efforts have been made to protect staff and visitors at risk from noise in the workplace.
Employers must first try to eliminate or reduce exposure to noise by means other than hearing protection we should always consider making the workplace safe before we start to look at hanging pieces of safety equipment on to the workforce. PPE should be a last resort and should be selected carefully and correctly.
a). Provide hearing protection to everyone exposed, and ensure it is used.
b). Identify Hearing Protection Zones with signs to show where hearing protection must be
c). Provide information, instruction and training on how to use and take care of hearing
d). Make sure that hearing protection is properly maintained.

Ensuring that the right type of hearing protection complying to the EN352 standards is used is vital in the process. There are two main types - those which cover the ear and those which are inserted into the ear.

Environmental Noise.

Normal conversation (3-5') 60-70dB
Telephone dial tone 80dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
Lorry Traffic 90dB
Underground train 95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 - 95dB
Motorbike 100dB
Power mower 107dB
Chain saw 110dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert 115dB
Pain begins 125dB
Pneumatic riveter 125dB
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage -

Loudest recommended exposure WITH hearing protection 140dB
Jet engine / Gun Blast 140dB
Death of hearing tissue 180dB
Loudest sound possible 194dB

Granite Workwear has a comprehensive range of Hearing Protection products from Earplugs to Ear Defenders.
Look after your ears – it is very inexpensive.

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