Hearing loss caused by exposure to excessive noise at work continues to be a significant cause of occupational disease. People can suffer deafness, tinnitus or other forms of hearing damage. Vibration from hand-held power tools can also damage hands and fingers, causing painful disorders of the blood vessels, nerves and joints.
The risks from noise and vibration are easily controlled by:
If you are responsible for work activities that generate noise or vibration, but are unsure whether staff are at risk, ask yourself the following questions:
If you answered 'yes' to any of the questions above staff may be at increased risk from hearing damage and the effects of vibration. If you need further advice, please contact the Health and Safety Advisory Service who can advise you on measurement of noise exposure and vibration risk assessment.
A risk assessment will enable you to make a valid decision about whether people are at risk from exposure to noise or vibration and what action you may need to take to prevent or adequately control that exposure. To do that you must estimate the noise and vibration exposure levels taking into account the factors related to the risk. This will identify what steps you will need to take to control the risk and whether health surveillance is needed.
It might be possible to estimate noise and vibration exposure levels or you may need to get support to carry out a detailed assessment. Below is the basic information you need to estimate noise and vibration exposure.
The noise level and length of exposure can then be used to calculate a person’s daily or weekly exposure. You need to compare your estimated noise exposure with the Exposure action values to know what action you need take. There are ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ Exposure action values and an Exposure limit value that cannot be exceeded. For example, if you exceed the upper Exposure action value, at risk people will need health surveillance, wear hearing protection and the noise reduced so far as is reasonably practicable
The vibration level and length of exposure can then be used to calculate a person’s daily exposure. You need to compare your estimated vibration exposure with the Exposure action value for hand arm vibration and whole body vibration to know what action you need take. There are also corresponding Exposure limit values that cannot be exceeded. For example, if you exceed the Exposure action value, at risk people will need health surveillance and the vibration risk reduced so far as is reasonably practicable.
Health surveillance will be required in the following circumstances:
Your Noise / HAVS assessment will identify whether health surveillance is required. Find out more about the types of health surveillance required and the purpose of health surveillance.