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What regulations do I need to abide by to protect my employees from excessive noise at work?
25/11/2015 Last Modified: 04/02/2016
Control of Noise at Work Regulations, 2005 Control of Vibration at Work Regulations, 2005
What are they?
The regulations aim to protect workers from risks to health from excessive noise and vibration, in particular vibration from hand held equipment such as chainsaws, hedge cutters etc, but can also apply to larger machinery such as stump grinders, ride on mowers, tractors etc.
Employers have a duty to reduce the risk of damage to their employees’ hearing. Noise levels have been set at which the employer should take action. Simply, below 80 decibels no protection is required. Above 80 decibels damage can occur and hearing protection becomes essential. Most arboricultural equipment operates at noise levels that require the employer to take action. Chainsaws can commonly operate at 110 decibels and hearing protection should aim to reduce that to below 80 decibels. Workers not operating equipment may also be affected by noise nearby and may need similar protection. The choice of hearing protection, plugs or defenders will be dictated by the reduction required. Machinery that emits noise greater than the limit must have hearing protection signs fitted as shown.
EAV and ELV
The Exposure Action Value (EAV) is a daily amount of vibration above which employers are required to take action to control exposure. The Exposure Limit Value (ELV) is the maximum amount of vibration an employee may be exposed to on any single day.
What is required?
Employers should carry out an assessment to determine who is at risk and what their exposure is by assessing tasks, duration of exposure (trigger time) and tools involved. Vibration levels are provided in manufacturer’s handbooks and make a reasonable starting point for calculating exposure.
Employers must assess the vibration risk and decide if they are likely to be exposed above the daily exposure action value (EAV) and if they are, to introduce a programme of controls to eliminate risk or reduce exposure to as low a level as is reasonably practicable. Those that remain above the EAV should be provided with regular health checks. Exposure above the daily exposure limit value (ELV) will require immediate action to be taken to reduce exposure below the limit value. Information and training to employees on health risks and the actions that are being taken must be provided to employees.
Consider alternative work methods (e.g. use of handsaws instead of chainsaws where applicable) and rotate tasks as part of general work arrangements to limit individual exposure. Favour low vibrating equipment as part of purchasing policy and ensure it is well maintained (a sharp chain will cut more quickly and smoothly thus reducing exposure). PPE, gloves etc, may help reduce the effects of vibration but should not be considered as part of vibration reduction. Trigger time, work practices etc should be monitored and vibration exposure reviewed periodically (see manufacturers’ websites).
Both regulations require specific health surveillance to be undertaken to monitor the effects of noise and vibration on employees. This will also take into account any pre-existing or predisposing conditions exposing employees to a higher level of risk. HSE has forms available for ‘initial screening’ on its website to assist with this.
health & safety
, noise at work
, risk to health
, vibration levels