Exposure to excessive noise levels can be severely harmful to your workers’ health, both short and long term. They are apparent in every industry and construction is up there with the highest noise and longest exposure levels. It’s important that you know what level of decibels is harmful to your workers and the various ways in which you can combat this issue.
The areas we’ll be talking about are:
1. The Laws Regarding Noise Levels
In April 2006, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations came into force for the majority of industries in Great Britain.
The primary aim of the introduction of these regulations was to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected at all times from excessive noise in the workplace, as too much exposure could lead to loss of hearing and potentially suffering from tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
A lot of construction sites are noisy. Really noisy. You’ll often find that you’re raising your voice just to speak to your team, even when they’re only probably stood two metres away. This is a telltale sign that noise levels on-site can damage health.
Other signs that your site might be too loud for your workers are sudden extremely loud noises and if you go home and find your hearing is muffled or your ears are ringing.
As a whole, power tools and other vital equipment are designed to stay under the recommended limit of 85 decibels, but you can often find that they can reach up to as many as 115 decibels.
These limits will also be exceeded if your team are using the equipment in a way that the suppliers and manufacturers don’t suggest. The surpassing of the recommended limits on power tools and machinery can prove to be a huge catalyst in the result of hearing problems for many construction workers.
2. The Consequences of Exposure to Excessive Noise
Your workers may find that if they are exposed to excessive noise too often over their working life that their quality of life may be hampered in various ways. These include:
- Conversation becoming increasingly difficult.
- Sounds like “t’s, d’s and s’s” are difficult to grasp and words can be easily confused.
- Permanent tinnitus - A constant ringing, buzzing, humming or buzzing in the ear. This condition has to be known to seriously affect sleep and in some cases, may be linked to depression.
3. Ways to Reduce Noise
There are two main ways to combat the noise levels on-site to protect your team - reduction or complete elimination.
One way in which you can totally eliminate the exposure to excessive noise levels is by removing your team from the areas in which the loudest noises are. You can gage which jobs are the noisiest ones to carry out by undertaking a noise risk assessment.
Observe work activities and measure the exposure time over part of a typical working day. If a particular employee is exposed to noise from more than one tool or work process during the day, then you will need to collect information about the likely noise level and exposure time for each tool and overall job.
In addition, use the guidelines that the manufacturers and suppliers provide with each piece of equipment to calculate the potential level of noise that your workers will be exposed to.
If it’s not possible for you to remove workers from noisy areas, then quieter equipment should be your next move. You should only look towards hearing protection or noise protection zones as a last resort.
Use the guidelines and trader advice when selecting your equipment to buy or hire. Choose the quietest tools that are most effective for the job. For example, trade your metal hammers in for a plastic or rubber alternative which will reduce the noise significantly.
Hearing protection should only be used when additional protection is required in tandem with another reduction method, for example, substituting for a quieter process.
However if hearing protectors are required, aim to provide protection of 85 decibels at the ear. Be careful not to provide excessive protection though - it can be dangerous. Cutting out too much noise can cause isolation and potentially lead to employees becoming frustrated and not opting to wear them.
Provide your staff with a couple of choices of comfortable, hygienic ear defenders. That way, they’ll be more likely to wear them and can choose which ones suit their role best. We recommend the Portwest Comfort Ear Protection.
However, if these aren’t the ones for you. Click below to view our full range.
Ensure that your team are all trained in how and when to use ear protectors. This will help when onboarding new staff too and keep everybody as safe as possible.
Keep Your Team Safe This Summer
As you’ll know, on a construction site there are various other hazards to protect your team from than just noise levels. And even more in the summer. Luckily for you, we’ve created a full free guide to how you can completely protect your team in the (hopefully) warmer temperatures. Download it below: