You will probably need to do something about the noise if any of the following apply:
- the noise is intrusive – for example, as noisy as a busy road, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – or worse than intrusive, for most of the working day;
- your employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 m apart for at least part of the day;
- your employees use noisy powered tools or machinery for more than half an hour each day;
- your sector is one known to have noisy tasks, eg construction, demolition or road repair; woodworking; plastics processing; engineering; textile manufacture; general fabrication; forging or stamping; paper or board making; canning or bottling; foundries; waste and recycling;
- there are noises due to impacts (such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns.
Situations, where you will need to consider safety issues in relation to noise, including where:
- you use warning sounds to avoid or alert to dangerous situations;
- working practices rely on verbal communications;
- there is work around mobile machinery or traffic.
Decide what action is needed
If any of the statements in the previous section apply, it is likely you will need to take some further action. You should carry out a risk assessment to decide what action is needed, and develop a plan.
A risk assessment means more than just taking measurements of noise – measurements may not even be necessary. Your risk assessment should:
- identify where there may be a risk from noise and who is likely to be affected, include:
▬ risks to health; and
▬ risks to safety;
- contain an estimate of your employees’ exposures to noise (see ‘Noise exposure levels’);
- identify what you need to do to comply with the law, eg whether noise-control measures and/or personal hearing protection are needed, or whether working practices are safe; and
- identify any employees who need to be provided with health surveillance and whether any are at particular risk.
You must record the findings of your risk assessment. You must also record the action you have taken, or intend to take, to comply with the law. You should review your risk assessment if circumstances change or if it is no longer valid, for example, if the work changes and this affects workers’ noise exposure, or there are changes to the availability, applicability or cost of noise-control measures. You should not leave it for more than about two years without checking whether a review is needed.