Exposure to excess noise levels can lead to hearing loss and legislation exists to limit such exposures. It is important to note that both the volume of the sound and the exposure time are important and overall exposure can be managed by reducing one or both of these factors. As a “rule of thumb”, a noise problem may exist in circumstances where people have difficulty being understood by someone about two metres away.
Management units should establish procedures to examine the work carried out under their control to identify where staff or students may suffer potentially hazardous noise exposures. Consideration should be given to particular tasks that may be carried out only periodically or intermittently and to likely background noise levels in environments such as plant rooms and workshops. Management procedures should seek to reduce noise exposure to acceptable levels by means other than hearing protection as the preferred option. Where this is not possible and hearing protection is deemed to be required, its use is mandatory.
Written assessments of noise exposure will generally be required in cases where there is likely to be significant exposure to noise at work. In such cases, ongoing health surveillance and hearing tests may be appropriate.
Managers should consult SEPS for further advice where thet feel that staff may be exposed to significant noise during their work. Occupational Health should also be contacted for advice on the need for health surveillance.
The HSE page on noise at work can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/noise/index.htm