Guidance for the employer

23,000 workers reported hearing problems between 2015/16 and 2017/18 (HSE Statistics). Noise can also be a safety hazard, interfering with communication and making warnings harder to hear and is often cited in stress complaints as a health and safety issue.

Noise at work is a problem for many companies so this week I thought that I would look at the topic and guide employers as to their duties.

Does your business have a noise problem?

There are a number of questions you should ask to determine whether you have a noise problem in your business:

  1. Is your industry noisy, e.g construction, demolition or road repair, entertainment, plastics processing, engineering, textile manufacture, pressing or stamping, paper or board making or canning and bottling?
  2. Are noisy powered tools or machinery used? – even short periods of high noise exposure can cause hearing damage.
  3. Is noise intrusive –e.g like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant – for most of the working day?
  4. Do employees have to raise their voices to carry out a normal conversation when about 2 metres apart for at least part of the day?
  5. Is noise made due to impacts, such as hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools, or explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools and detonators?

What are the action levels and limit values?

At certain limit values specific action must be taken related to:

  • the levels of exposure to noise of your employees averaged over a working day or week
  • the maximum noise (peak sound pressure) to which employees are exposed in a working day.
Lower exposure action values:
  • daily or weekly exposure of 80 dB(A)
  • peak sound pressure of 135 dB.
Upper exposure action values:
  • daily or weekly exposure of 85 dB(A)
  • peak sound pressure of 137 dB.
Levels of noise exposure which must not be exceeded:
  • daily or weekly exposure of 87 dB(A)

*sound pressure of 140 dB.

Employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training at 80 dB(A) and must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones at 85 dB(A) (equivalent continuous daily exposure or weekly average exposure varies markedly from day to day).

Prevention is better than Cure

Control methods or noise reduction techniques include:

  • using a different, quieter process or equipment, e.g. replace whatever is causing the noise with something less noisy; instituting a low-noise purchasing policy for machinery and equipment

  • introducing engineering controls: avoiding metal-on-metal impacts, fitting silencers to air exhausts and blowing nozzles

  • modifying transmission routes for noise, e.g. erecting enclosures around machines to reduce the amount of noise emitted into the workplace or environment

  • designing the workplace for low noise emission, e.g. keeping noisy machinery out of areas where people spend most of their time

When should hearing protection be used?

Ear protection is a last resort where other methods of removing the risk from noise have been introduced and there is still a problem.


  • make sure the protectors give enough protection; below 85 dB(A) at the ear, to do this they need to be selected having regard to the level and type of noise exposure and suited to the individual

  • select protectors which are suitable for the working environment; consider comfort and hygiene

  • think about how they will be worn with other protective equipment (e.g. hard hats, dust masks and eye protection)

  • provide a range of protectors so that employees can choose ones which suit them

  • arrange audiometry testing where appropriate.

woman with ear defenders

You need to make sure that employees use hearing protection when required to and are trained in how to use the equipment and in the hazards of noise exposure.

Noise risk assessments should be carried out by a competent person and take into account the HSE’s five steps of risk assessment and document the estimated noise exposure and the control measures required.

Case law

A company was fined £15,000 for failing to protect the workforce from excessive noise. The court heard that the factory had not made a suitable assessment of noise between 2006 and 20013. Noise levels became excessive from 2008 when a third machine was added to the production process. Levels reached between two and three times higher than the maximum allowed. Hearing protection was not introduced until 2013. There should also have been a surveillance programme for noise exposure for affected workers

Legislation and guidance

The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 requires employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work and requires employers to:

  • assess the risks to their employees from noise at work
  • take action to reduce the noise exposure that produces those risks
  • provide employees with hearing protection if noise exposure cannot be reduced sufficiently by using other methods
  • make sure the legal limits on noise exposure are not exceeded
  • provide employees with information, instruction and training
  • carry out health surveillance where there is a risk to health.

Help available from The Wilkins Safety Group Ltd

Here at the Wilkins Safety Group we can help clients with:

If you would like any further help or support, please please contact us by phone 01458 253682, email [email protected] or via our Facebook page  or by Twitter.

Save Money on Your Online Training

If you are a company that will need quite a few of your staff trained using these courses, you may want to take advantage of the fact that you can pre-buy the training credits at a bulk rate.

This will allow you to buy the credits at a discounted rate to be used at your convenience. There is no limit on the time it takes to use the credits and 1 credit = 1 training course.

For companies that know they will need over 5 in a year but not all at the same time this automatically starts reducing your costs.

To buy in bulk simply click on the bulk credits button and purchase the number you will require. Once you have paid for your courses you can utilise them at your leisure and fit them into your staff training requirements.

If you have any questions, please contact us and we will be happy to advise.

What is the cost of these courses?

Companies will be able to buy credits. Each of these credits will allow 1 allocated person access to 1 course. The cost of these credits will reduce based on the number of credits purchased. See pricing chart below:

No of credits1-56-1011-2021-3031-4041-5051-7576-100101-150151-200201-250
Cost of credit£19.99£17.99£16.99£15.99£14.99£13.99£12.99£11.99£10.99£9.99£7.99

Remember – There is no limit on the time it takes to use the credits