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New guidelines prompt new warning on noise levels in the workplace

Hearing problems caused in the workplace


New regulations on the accepted levels of noise in the workplace come into force today and have far reaching ramifications for all industries and employers. The legally acceptable level of noise in the workplace has been lowered to 80 dB, equivalent to an underground train passing you on the station. Previous levels were set at 85 dB. These new regulations state that no employee can be exposed to noise over 80 dB over an 8 hour period, employers are required to take steps to reduce the levels of noise by reducing the noise at source or providing acoustic screening, if they think they may be exposing their workers to these levels.

The only exception to the regulations is the Music and Entertainment Industry who have a 2 year transitional period. There is also no statute or regulation which protects nightclub workers or patrons. Research carried out by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), who measured the noise levels on the dance floors of nightclubs throughout the UK, showed that the lowest reading was 89.8 dB and the highest was 110.2 dB, louder than a pneumatic drill.



Deafness caused in the workplace

The RNID also pointed out that an increase of 3 dB represents a doubling of the sound energy. An individual exposed to a noise level of 100 dB in a nightclub would reach the new 80 dB threshold within 15 minutes. This means that the same amount of potential damage occurs in less than 15 mins when exposed at 100 dB than it would if the same person was exposed for 8 hours to a noise level of 80 dB.

According to further research from the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) approximately 39% of 18 to 24 year olds listened to personal music players for at least 1 hour every day and 42% of those admitted that the music was too loud. Some MP3 players can reach up to 105 dB.

As a general rule if any noise is so loud that you have to raise your voice or shout to hold a conversation then this is too loud. Furthermore, any prolonged or excessive exposure could lead to Noise Induced Hearing Loss.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is common for many former workers in the mining, steel, engineering and textile industries, many of whom may have a potential claim for damages for Noise Induced Hearing Loss.

Too much noise in the workplace

If you think that the noise you are exposed to at work is too loud you should first make a complaint to your supervisor. If no action is taken or you are unhappy with the action taken you could speak to the Occupational Health, Environmental Health or Health and Safety Executive who attend your place of work to perform noise surveys.

You can also help yourself by wearing hearing protection in the form of ear plugs or muffs. These are readily available and if worn correctly, these can reduce the levels of noise to an acceptable level.

If you feel that you have been exposed to excessive levels of noise and suffer from a problem with your hearing you should seek medical advice from your GP.