Continual exposure to excessive noise levels may cause temporary or permanent industrial deafness. Employers must therefore provide hearing protection if employees are exposed to noise levels between or above certain lower and upper action levels.
About action levels
Action levels are the levels of exposure to noise at which employers must take the necessary steps to reduce harmful effects noise may have on workers’ hearing.
- Lower action level
The lower action level, or action value, at which employers have to make suitable hearing protection available, as well as providing information and training, is an average weekly or daily exposure to noise levels of 80dB.
- Upper action level
Should the level of weekly or daily exposure exceed an average of 85 dB, employers must take reasonable, practicable measures (like engineering controls and/or other suitable technical measures) to reduce noise exposure. Provision of suitable hearing protection is mandatory while suitable measures are planned and implemented or if noise cannot be reduced by such measures. Even with hearing protection taken into account, workers may not be exposed to noise levels exceeding 87 dB.
The main hearing protection types employers may provide include:
- Ear plugs (inserted into the user’s ear canal)
- Semi-inserts or canal caps, as they are also often called (covering the ear canal entrance)
- Ear muffs (completely covering the ear)
Noise assessments and information provided by hearing protection suppliers help to determine which type of device is most suitable. The goal is to reduce noise levels to below 85 dB near the user’s ear. It is necessary to ensure that:
- Provided equipment is suitable for the working environment
- Provided equipment is compatible and can be used effectively in combination with eye protection; dust masks, hard hats or other protective equipment likely to be used by employees
Ideally, a range of different hearing protectors should be made available to cater for employee preferences or requirements. Some individuals can, for instance, not wear ear plugs due to the risk of ear infections.
Explosions and other sudden noises
Occasionally, accidents at work can cause sudden exposure to extreme noise levels. Such work accidents may lead to work injuries affecting employees’ hearing temporarily or permanently.
When noise affects your hearing
If you suffer from impaired hearing due to continued exposure to excessive noise or as the result of a work accident, you may be eligible for industrial injury compensation. Initiate your claim for compensation by speaking to an adviser on Accident Advice Helpline’s 24-hour Freephone number on 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 from your mobile.
Date Published: February 27, 2015
Author: Accident Advice