Managing noise in the work place

July 8th, 2011

Hearing loss is for life, so protecting your workers’ ears by managing noise is essential. Noisy environments can be unavoidable for some workplaces, but there are many different measures to reduce damaging effects. The effects of noise can extend beyond the immediate workplace, to interfere with other people’s lives in a variety of ways. When implementing noise reduction mechanisms, it is important to consider both OHS and environmental issues.

Noise Health and Safety

Constant or sudden exposure to very loud noises can destroy hair cells in the inner ear, which cannot be repaired or replaced by any known technology. This results in either temporary or permanent hearing loss, initially reducing ability to hear high-pitched noises then deteriorating to prevent hearing a range of frequencies. A noisy workplace, or one full of employees with damaged hearing, is not good for effective communication, and this can lead to dangerous and unproductive procedures.

Hearing conditions can also reduce concentration, increase irritability and ultimately lead to depression, so reducing the effects of noise, or the noise itself, is an important step in OHS.

You must ensure workers exposure to noise does not exceed an average of 85 dB over eight hours, and that they are never exposed to sudden peak noises exceeding 140 dB. This can be achieved by first identifying noise hazards, then applying appropriate control measures. It should always be top priority to eliminate the noise completely, but if this isn’t practicable, you might be able to substitute the source of the noise with a quieter tool or process. Noisy tools and processes can often be engineered to reduce damage, possibly by isolating the noise in a soundproof container, creating barriers or distance or installing sound absorption surfaces. Personal hearing protection and buying or hiring the quietest equipment will also limit possible noise damage.

Environmental Issues

As well as considering the effects in your workplace, it is also essential to think of the effects outside the workplace and attempt to manage them. Excessive, constant noise can interfere with other people’s lives by disturbing sleep and speech, increasing anxiety or causing hearing damage. If a person perceives they are being affected, you must refer to the relevant Act in your state and either prove the noise levels are acceptable, or implement measures to reduce it immediately. It’s important to remember that individuals will find varying levels of noise offensive; so all complaints must be dealt our state with keeping this in mind.

Maintenance

Once all the hard work of implementing measures is done, make sure this time and money does not go down the drain. The entire workplace must collaborate to maintain measures to reduce effects of noise on health and the environment. This includes ongoing training, keeping records of incidents, assessment of noise and measure, and any implementing any necessary updates required. Listen to the people working constantly in the environment, as they will be first to notice decreasing standards or suffer the effects of poor maintenance.