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Health and Safety


Noise is one of the most widespread and underestimated of industrial hazards.

Exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing damage. Hearing loss caused by exposure to noise at work continues to be a significant occupational disease. Recent research suggests 170,000 people in the UK suffer deafness, tinnitus or other ear conditions as a result of exposure to excessive noise at work.

HSE indicates there are over a million workers exposed to potentially damaging noise levels between 80(dBA) to 85(dBA); 696,800 workers exposed to 85 decibels(dBA) to 90(dBA), and 438,300 workers exposed to more than 90(dBA).

Factors that contribute to hearing damage are; noise levels and how long people are exposed to the noise, daily and over a number of years.

Besides causing temporary or permanent hearing loss noise can also be a safety hazard. Noise can interfere with verbal communication, produce stress and affect performance.

Noise in the workplace is covered by the Noise at Work Regulations 1989 though these will be replaced in 2006 when the European Physical Agents (Noise) Directive is transposed into UK regulations.

The regulations set a hierarchy of action levels at which certain requirements will apply. Basic good practice is to eliminate noise by designing it out, isolating it by using enclosures or other measures, if this is not possible, and as a last resort, where other methods are not possible, the use of hearing protection for example ear plugs or muffs.


HSE noise pages

HSE free leaflets on noise

The Noise at Work Regulations 1989

European Physical Agents (Noise) Directive

CWU Acoustic Shock

London Hazards Centre factsheet Noise at Work

Indecent exposure: A joint report on noise at work by RNID and TUC March 1999.

The most recent documents available on this subject are:

Bar staff 'should wear ear plugs'
Campaigners have attacked the music and entertainment industry for not preparing measures to protect the hearing of bar and club workers.
PDF version available for download
11 May 2007

TUC repeats call for hearing checks
Hearing charity RNID and the TUC have teamed up for the second year running to call on workers and their managers to 'break the sound barrier' and take the charity's telephone hearing check on 0845 600 55 55.
PDF version available for download
12 January 2007

Worker gets £5,500 for lost hearing
A worker suffering severe hearing loss caused by foundry noise has received a £5,500 payout.
PDF version available for download
4 August 2006

Two million shaken, not heard
More than two million workers in Great Britain are exposed to either excessive noise or hand arm vibration, says the HSE.
PDF version available for download
14 July 2006

RNID and TUC warn employers to take hearing damage more seriously or face wave of staff compensation claims
RNID and the TUC are warning employers and employees to take hearing damage more seriously now that the new Control of Noise at Work Regulations have come into effect today (6th April 2006). RNID and the TUC welcome the tighter Noise at Work regulations, which will provide improved protection for workers from one of Britain's most serious occupational diseases.
6 April 2006

Bosses urged to listen to new noise rules
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is reminding employers that the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 come into force on 6 April, replacing the existing regulations.
PDF version available for download
31 March 2006

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