Workplace and environmental noise assessment services
Are you and your employees being exposed to noise?
Hearing loss caused by work is preventable, but once your hearing has gone it will not come back. A Workplace and environmental noise assessment could help prevent this happening.
The trouble is, noise is an invisible hazard, so how do you know if you are harming your staff.
The measurement of noise is a complex issue and one that you naturally want to get right. Noise assessments, either environmental or within the workplace, should only be undertaken by competent people. Our specialists have attained the relevant professional qualifications and experience, and are members of the Institute of Acoustics. We will work with you to complete the most effective approach to noise assessment, and find find practical solutions if the results confirm there is a problem that needs addressing.
We offer two types of noise assessment:
- environmental noise workplace
- noise exposure to individuals
- Measuring the Sound Level
- Why Use a Consultant?
- How Do We Calculate Exposure?
- The Two Approaches to Noise Assessment
- Selection of Hearing Protection
Workplace Noise Assessment
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 aim to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their place of work. Exposure to high noise levels can cause hearing loss and conditions such as tinnitus (permanent ringing in the ears).
These regulations place stringent requirements upon the amount of noise to which workers can be exposed. Employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones when workers exceed the Upper Exposure Action Value (which is a daily or weekly exposure of 85dBA or more). Above the Lower Exposure Action Value (which is a daily or weekly exposure of 80dBA or more), employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training. There is also an Exposure Limit Value of 87dBA, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed.
Measuring the Sound Level
The regulations are designed to protect individuals from damage to their hearing, both from exposure to sustained levels of noise over a working life, and from very high impulses of noise, which can give instant damage. With this in mind, measurements are taken which assess the average exposure an individual is subjected to throughout the day and also measure any ‘peaks’ of noise which could result in instant hearing damage.
Why Use a Consultant?
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 call for the use of ‘expert intermediaries’, meaning an employer should rely on competent third parties where they themselves are not competent for the relevant aspect of noise in the workplace. Noise assessment can be very complex and you need the right combination of training and experience to be considered as competent. PHSC’s consultants are members of both the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health as well as the Institute of Acoustics, which is the gold-standard of competency in noise assessment.
At PHSC we use only modern, data logging sound level meters. Old sound level meters or very simple units give only an instantaneous level of noise in decibels, which makes it difficult to look at the value on the display and assess an average value. This problem is compounded by the fact that machine noise that sounds ‘steady’ to the ear can vary by 3dB. A 3dB increase is a 100 per cent increase in noise energy, meaning that large errors can be made if an accurate average is not measured.
This is why modern sound level meters have an averaging feature called Leq. This is called the equivalent continuous sound energy level. As this value uses the ‘A’ weighting, this is normally displayed as LAeq when written down.
How Do We Calculate Exposure?
In order to compare different industries and shift times in a way that the same action levels can be used, noise exposure is standardised to an eight hour working day value called LAEP,d (‘daily personal noise exposure‘). When measuring the LAeq it is important to measure for a period of time that is representative of the employees’ exposure and what the exposure time is for that noise. If an employee performs different jobs (and hence experiences differing noise levels) it will be necessary to repeat this for each different job, noting the exposure time for each.
The Two Approaches to Noise Assessment
A sound level meter is primarily designed as a hand held meter, whereas the noise dosimeter is worn by an employee for his or her working shift. A common misconception is that if you have to measure noise dose, you use a dosimeter. In fact the HSE’s preferred method of measurement for noise surveys is to use a sound level meter.
There are several reasons for this, primarily because when performing a noise survey with a sound level meter the operator is present and measuring the noise of the employee. This ensures there are good quality measurements that are repeatable. With a sound level meter, a representative measurement is made for each job function and the exposure time for each, and from there the eight hour exposure can be calculated.
The more complex the work pattern of an employee becomes, the more the difficulty to assess the noise dose using a sound level meter is increased because more and more measurements would need to be taken in order to calculate noise dose.
A noise dosimeter consists of a microphone on a cable, which can be clipped to the lapel or collar. The dosimeter can then be started at the beginning of the shift. Another useful feature of noise dosimeters is that they will ‘log’ the noise data so that, when downloaded to a PC, the time history of the noise can be viewed. This gives the ability to analyse when and where high noise exposures occur through a shift. This can be even more useful when the dosimeter can be placed on an employee who is prepared to make a diary of what times and jobs he or she was performing throughout the day. This will give the employer the ability to directly see which operations most need noise control in order to reduce noise exposure.
Selection of Hearing Protection
Where the selection of hearing protection is required it may be necessary to measure the frequencies of the noise that are present (octave bands) to ensure the hearing protection is giving the correct attenuation:
Your Next Step
If you feel that you may need a noise assessment within your workplace, your first step should be to ring us on 01622 717700for an informal chat.
This will help us to understand the issues within your workplace and enable us to suggest an assessment programme to satisfy both the current legislation, as well as your own needs. Any noise at work risk assessment involves a consultant spending some time at your site, taking noise measurements, and then writing the report.
Environmental Noise assessment
If your business is planning a development or you are concerned that noise from your premises may disturb people in nearby residential areas, then an environmental noise assessment may well be of benefit.
How is Environmental Noise assessed?
The assessment of environmental noise involves two main aspects.
The first stage in carrying out an environmental noise assessment is the quantification of noise. This involves the measurement of existing sources or the prediction of noise from future sources.
The second stage involves evaluating the actual or predicted value against some criteria. For example, this might be a noise level imposed by planning policy guidance or a limit imposed by the serving of an abatement notice.
British Standard 4142: “Method of Rating Industrial Noise Affecting Mixed Residential and Industrial Areas” is an example of a prediction tool. The standard is very complex, but essentially it allows a noise assessment to be made as to whether complaints from local residents are likely to occur, where commercial noise impacts upon residential areas.
Your Next Step
Each environmental noise assessment is likely to be different and therefore it is recommended that you contact us on 01622 717700to discuss your needs in the first instance. An acoustic specialist will be able to assist you and propose a practical and realistic assessment programme.